Your water takes a very long journey before it comes out of your tap. It travels through thousands of miles of pipes and aqueducts, enormous open-air and underground reservoirs, and a network of treatment plants that ensure the quality of our drinking water.

Southern California’s vast water delivery and storage system also has a kind of mission control center. Think NASA’s Johnson Spaceflight Center, but for H2O, not rockets and astronauts. The control center  manages and monitors the region’s water supply

The center is so critical to Southern California, water managers don’t like talking about it and do what they can to not draw public attention. The reason? Security. They worry that an act of terrorism or sabotage against the facility could temporarily jeopardize the region’s drinking water supply.

So we were very happy and a little surprised, when we were given unusual access to the control center. Here’s the story of what happens inside one of Southern California’s most important, but least known, places. You might not think about that water in your glass the same way again.

The water control center is operated by the Metropolitan Water District, or MWD, a cooperative of Southern California water districts and cities extending from Ventura to San Diego. The MWD asked KCRW not to divulge the location for the facility. We also weren't allowed to take photos inside. This is the front gate for the facility. (Photo by Saul Gonzalez)

The water control center is operated by the Metropolitan Water District, or MWD, a cooperative of Southern California water districts and cities extending from Ventura to San Diego. The MWD asked KCRW not to divulge the location for the facility. We also weren’t allowed to take photos inside. This is the front gate for the facility.
(Photo by Saul Gonzalez)

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The Metropolitan Water District’s control center is indispensable to running a vast water system. The MWD’s general manager, Jeffrey Kightlinger, calls it the “backbone of Southern California.” The system covers over 5,000 square mile region and has over a 1,000 miles of pipes. More than 19 million people, or 1 in 2 Californians, depend on the system for their daily drinking water. (Photo by Saul Gonzalez)

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Beyond keeping our water supply system safe and secure, another challenge facing Southern California’s water managers is the growing age of our water infrastructure. Important segments of the network date back to the 1920s and 30s. (Photo courtesy of the MWD)

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