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2002 Press Releases

Water Department

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 31, 2002

CONTACT: Robert Carty, City of San Diego
(619) 533-6607

Alvarado Water Treatment Plant Receives National Historic Award
Preserving the 'Heart' of the City Water System

La Mesa, CA - The American Water Works Association has recognized the Alvarado Water Treatment Plant (Alvarado) as an American Water Landmark. This award recognizes an American Water Landmark at least 50 years old that has had a direct and significant relationship with water's supply, treatment, distribution, or technological development. The award was presented to Mark Stone, deputy director for the Water Department, at a ceremony in April. Engraved on the award is the text: "The Alvarado Water Treatment Plant has been the heart of the City of San Diego's drinking water system for more than half a century, standing as a monument to faithful public service and a landmark for the City and the surrounding community." The award was unveiled at the facility today.

After more than 50 years of delivering clean and safe water to half a million San Diegans without a rest, the City of San Diego Water Department has begun work preserving Alvarado, the "heart" of San Diego's drinking water. San Diego's oldest existing water treatment plant, Alvarado is undergoing a massive upgrade and expansion as part of the Water Department's Capital Improvements Program (CIP).

While Alvarado's system of storage reservoirs, controls, treatment processes, filters and pumps are being upgraded and modernized, the Water Department also is taking care to preserve the facility's historical and cultural significance.

The San Diego Historical Site Board designated portions of Alvarado property as historically significant on April 27, 1994, following an environmental impact report that indicated eligibility for designation. The portions included in the designation are the exterior gateway pillars, the foyer, tower, entry courtyard and fountain, and the stairway, all of which exist as part of the operations building.

"This treatment plant is an example of significant public architecture that went beyond the necessary and fulfilled a role greater than its utilitarian function," said Mike Tudury, senior planner of the City and former staff to the Historical Site Board during Alvarado's designation as a historic site. "The building addresses the human spirit, complements the environment and is an achievement that stands the test of time."

The operations building is the image of Spanish Colonial Revival architecture, a style which flourished during the 1920s. Both the interior and exterior feature elements typical of Streamline Moderne designs, similar to Art Deco. This blending of these two unrelated styles was common during the years that preceded World War II. Closely associated with federal government architecture, these styles were classical and formal, but added enough Moderne details to provide a contemporary feeling. In addition, the "Moorish" tower of the operations building is unique in its design and visible from many surrounding areas.

"The Water Department is interested in recognizing our local culture by preserving Alvarado's historic elements," said Larry Gardner, the Water Department's director. "Preserving the designated areas of Alvarado will capture a sense of history unique to San Diego."

Features of Alvarado that particularly embrace the artistic and decorative elements of the structure include the terrazzo floors of the operations building and the photographic murals of San Diego's water history that line the foyer walls. Oil paintings of Hoover Dam's construction by artist Otto H. Schnieder are also featured.

"To ensure the survival of these features they have been protected in place or removed from the area being renovated," said Norm Pierce, treatment plant liaison for the City's three water treatment plants. "They will be returned to their proper place when improvements to the operations building are complete."

The historical renovations will be ongoing throughout the life of the project, with completion of the operations building by the end of the first phase of construction. Overall completion of the Alvarado capital project is scheduled for 2007. Alvarado is part of the City of San Diego Water Department's citywide CIP. The CIP was initiated in July 1998, and is now in its fourth execution year. Water infrastructure improvements (replacements, upgrades and expansions) have begun throughout the City's water system, including pipelines, water pump stations, reservoirs and treatment plants. These improvements will help ensure a safe and reliable water supply, protecting the region's job base, environment and overall quality of life for future generations.

For more information about the Alvarado project or the Water Department's CIP, please call our CIP Public Information Line at 619-533-4679.

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