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Santa Barbara’s Gibraltar Reservoir turns 100 years old!

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City of Santa Barbara

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - The City of Santa Barbara announced that the Gibraltar Reservoir turned 100 years old this Monday!

The Gibraltar Reservoir was completed on January 26, 1920, and has served an important role in providing Santa Barbara with affordable drinking water for the past ten decades.

The reservoir is located nine miles north of the city along the Santa Ynez River.

History of Gibraltar Reservoir

In 1903, the City employed J.B. Lippincott of the U.S. Geological Survey to examine Santa Barbara’s growing water supply problem. 

A dam in the drainage basin of the Santa Ynez River was one of Lippincott’s recommendations, and a potential site was named.

A month after submitting his report, Lippincott, was searching for a lost mule when he came upon the Gibraltar site. The Gibraltar project then became his final recommendation.

The construction bid for Gibraltar was $342,981, which was funded by bonds. Bent Construction began the project in May of 1918 and it was completed on January 26, 1920.

Prior to constructing Gibraltar, Santa Barbara relied entirely upon groundwater sources. Thus the construction of Gibraltar, along with Mission Tunnel, provided Santa Barbara with the water it needed to grow and progress into a city.

Gibraltar Dam collects water from the Santa Ynez River in the Gibraltar Reservoir. From there, the water flows through the 3.7-mile-long Mission Tunnel to the city. Mission Tunnel was completed in 1912, eight years prior to the construction of Gibraltar Dam.

“If they couldn’t build a tunnel through the Santa Ynez Mountains, the dam would not have done us any good,” said Joshua Haggmark, City Water Resources Manager.

At the time it was built, Mission Tunnel was the longest irrigation tunnel in the world. When it passes under La Cumbre Peak, the tunnel is nearly 3,000 feet underground.

For more information on Gibraltar, you can visit the Gibraltar page on the city's website here.

You can see information about Santa Barbara's other water sources here.

Article Topic Follows: Santa Barbara - South County
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Jessica Brest

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