How We Get Our Water

How We Get Our Water: Infrastructure Serving Our Communities 

Delivering water to Southern California homes and businesses is as much about infrastructure as it is about actual water. While Metropolitan is working hard to ensure the reliability of our imported water supplies and increasingly investing in local supplies, that is just the beginning. Bringing drinking water to your faucet takes hundreds of miles of aqueduct, dozens of high-powered pumps, a vast storage system of reservoirs and groundwater basins across the state, regional water treatment facilities, and an extensive distribution system of pipelines and service connections.

Bringing Water Across the State   

About 25 percent of the water used in Southern California typically comes from the Colorado River. Another 30 percent originates in the Northern Sierra. The remaining 45 percent comes from a mix of what are considered local supplies, which includes the city of Los Angeles’ eastern Sierra deliveries as well as recycling, desalination and groundwater supplies. That means most of our water travels a great distance to get to our faucets.

Aerial view of the California River Aqueduct in the desert on a sunny day
A State Water Project aqueduct located below the snow-capped Northern Sierra Mountains.
Water treatment pools at a Metropolitan water treatment facility
Landscape photo of our Diamond Valley Lake reservoir in Hemet

Storing for the Dry Years

California’s naturally variable weather, which is being exacerbated by climate change, makes storage a critical element of Metropolitan’s ability to reliably deliver water to the region. It has become increasingly important that we take advantage of water when it is available and store it for times when it is not. That’s why Metropolitan has invested significantly in storage over the past three decades, increasing our storage capacity by 13 times. Some of that storage is in groundwater banking programs locally and throughout the state, some is in state reservoirs along the State Water Project and federal reservoirs along the Colorado River, and some is in Metropolitan’s own reservoirs.

Lake Mathews at sunset

Pumping Plants

While water flows through much of Metropolitan's service area powered by gravity, it takes five pumping plants along the Colorado River Aqueduct to ensure it reaches its final destination at Lake Mathews. These pumping plants combined lift CRA water supplies just over 1,600 feet, allowing it to flow by gravity west across the Mojave Desert. All pumping plants have nine pumps, each with a nominal rated capacity of at least 225 cubic feet per second. Once it reaches the region, Colorado River water flows through Metropolitan's entire distribution system and treatment plants by gravity, under normal operations. Read more.

Pumping containers connected to an array of metal tubing inside of the Whitsett Intake Pumping Plant

W.P. Whitsett Intake Pumping Plant

The Intake plant is the starting point of the Colorado River Aqueduct supply and lifts water out of Lake Havasu 291 feet, from an elevation of 450 feet above sea level to 741 feet. 

Aerial view of the Gene Pumping Plant Facilities

Gene Pumping Plant 

The Gene plant is located two miles west of the Intake plant. The facility lifts water from Gene Wash reservoir 303 feet to Copper Basin reservoir, at an elevation of 1,037 feet. 

Aerial view of the Iron Mountain Pumping Plant Facilities

Iron Mountain Pumping Plant 

The Iron Mountain plant is 70 miles from Copper Basin and lifts water 144 feet. 

Aerial view of the Eagle Mountain Pumping Plant Facilities

Eagle Mountain Pumping Plant 

The Eagle Mountain plant is 40 miles west of Iron Mountain and lifts water 438 feet to an elevation of 1,404 feet. 

Looking up at the piping system at the Julian Hinds Pumping Plant

Julian Hinds Pumping Plant 

The Hinds plant is 16 miles west of Eagle Mountain and has the highest lift of all the plants, 441 feet to an elevation of 1,807 feet. 

Reducing Pumping Costs with Hydro & Solar Power 


It takes a lot of energy to pump water 1,600 feet up a mountain. Pumping water along the CRA uses about 2 million megawatt-hours of energy a year. About half of this is met by Metropolitan’s allocation of power from Hoover and Parker dams. To offset the rest of our power costs, Metropolitan has built 15 hydroelectric plants throughout our distribution system.  


Largely built in the late 1970s and early 1980s during that era’s energy crisis, the plants not only generate electricity, they also help control pressure within the distribution system. These 15 hydroelectric plants generate about 250,000 megawatt-hours of energy per year and have a total capacity of about 130 megawatts.  

Metropolitan has also developed 5 ½ megawatts of solar power at our facilities. And we’re exploring other ways to further reduce our carbon emissions and stabilize energy costs through our Energy Sustainability Plan. That plan could include adding additional renewable energy to our portfolio, increasing our energy efficiency and storage, and load shifting to take advantage of solar power.


Here’s a snapshot of Metropolitan’s delivery and treatment system.  

Solar Panels at a Metropolitan water facility