Collection Scope and Contents
Title: Joseph Barlow Lippincott papers
Date (inclusive): 1882-1942
Collection Number: WRCA 052
Lippincott, Joseph Barlow, 1864-1942
42 linear feet
Rivera Library. Special Collections Department.
Abstract: Correspondence, reports, documents, news clippings, and several descriptive photograph albums, pertaining to projects on dams,
reservoirs, aqueducts, and other water supply works, groundwater and streamflow, in California, in particular for the Metropolitan
Water District of Southern California, and in Arizona and other Western States. Collection described in:
Water Resources Reports and Papers in the J. B. Lippincott Collection,compiled by Gerald J. Giefer and Anelle McCarty Kloski (Water Resources Collections and Archives Series Report no. 21, 1970).
Collection is open for research.
Copyright has not been assigned to the Water Resources Collections and Archives. All requests for permission to publish or
quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Director of Distinctive Collections. Permission for publication
is given on behalf of the Water Resources Collections and Archives as the owner of the physical items and is not intended
to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained by the reader.
[identification of item], [date if possible]. Joseph Barlow Lippincott papers (WRCA 052). Water Resources Collections and
Archives. Special Collections & University Archives, University of California, Riverside.
The Lippincott collection was presented to the University by Kenneth Q. and Bette Volk of Los Angeles.
Joseph Barlow Lippincott was born in Scranton, Pennsylvania, on October 10, 1864, the son of Joshua Allen and Harriet (Phillips)
Lippincott. He attended Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, from 1880 to 1882, when the family moved to Kansas where
he entered the University of Kansas at Lawrence.
Upon his graduation, he worked as track engineer in Missouri for the Santa Fe Railway System, and in the spring of 1889,
was promoted to the position of division engineer.
From 1889 to 1892 Lippincott was topographer for the U.S. Geological Survey in charge of making topographic maps in New Mexico
and California. In 1893 he became assistant engineer for the Bear Valley Irrigation Company, on the construction of an early
irrigation project on the headwaters of the Santa Ana River in Southern California.
In 1895 Lippincott accepted the position of resident hydrographer for the State of California, with the Hydrographic Branch
of the U.S. Geological Survey. At this time there were practically no stream-flow measurements available in this area. He
established many of the gaging stations on the principal streams and secured local observers who served without pay. The rainfall
and stream-flow records obtained in this early day were of great value in developing plans for the future water supply of
In the fall of 1897 and the spring of 1898 Lippincott served as a member of the board of consulting engineers of the City
of Los Angeles, Calif., in connection with litigation in the San Fernando Valley over the pueblo rights of the city.
In the spring of 1899 Lippincott prepared an exhaustive report for the Geological Survey on the water supply, available reservoir
sites, and irrigable areas on the Gila River in southwestern Arizona. After this assignment he made a comprehensive study
of the development of the surface waters of the upper Santa Ana River and the San Bernardino artesian basin. The results of
both of these studies were published in the
Water Supply Papersof the U.S. Geological Survey.
With the organization of the U.S. Reclamation Service in 1902 Lippincott became supervising engineer of all Reclamation Service
activities in the Pacific Coast region extending from the Klamath River in Oregon to the lower Colorado River in Arizona and
California. His work included the preparation of plans and estimates of cost and construction of the Klamath and the Yuma
projects until July 1905.
The need for additional water for the City of Los Angeles was brought forcibly to the attention of the water commissioners
in July of 1904 when, for a ten day period, the daily consumption exceeded the inflow into the city's reservoirs by nearly
four million gallons. In 1905, Lippincott was appointed with O.K. Parker and William Mulholland to a board of engineers which
was to make recommendations in regard to the expansion of the water supply, investigating seven sources. The decision was
that the Owens River was the nearest adequate supply and that to augment the city's needs temporarily at lower cost by withdrawals
from adjacent artesian areas would result in the curtailment of the development of the surrounding country.
In July 1906, Lippincott left the Reclamation Service to become assistant chief engineer of the Owens River Aqueduct. When
completed, the Owens River Aqueduct had a capacity of 400 cu. ft. per sec. and consisted of open-canal, covered conduit, steel
and concrete siphons, sixty miles of tunnels, five dams, storage reservoirs, and three hydroelectric power plants for construction
purposes. One of the first municipal projects of magnitude to be built by day labor under the supervision of its engineering
staff, this was a monumental undertaking for such a small city. Lippincott had much to do with the final location of the aqueduct,
was in charge of the preparation of the detail plans and estimates of cost, and initiated and established a new system of
construction cost keeping together with the bonus system which developed keen rivalry between different divisions and aided
in breaking many records for rapid tunnel construction.
Upon the completion of the aqueduct in 1913, Lippincott entered private practice at Los Angeles, specializing in water supply
for irrigation and municipal uses under the firm name of "Engineering Offices of J.B. Lippincott," in which company he was
active until the time of his death. During this period he was engaged as consultant on water supply investigations and water
works construction for many of the western cities including Los Angeles, San Francisco, Oakland, Alameda, Berkeley, Santa
Barbara, San Diego, Long Beach, Riverside, San Luis Obispo, Ventura, Orange, Santa Ana, Whittier, Avalon, and Fullerton, in
California; Denver, Colo.; El Paso, Tex.; Phoenix, Ariz.; and others. In addition, he was consultant for many irrigation districts
throughout the west including San Fernando Valley Irrigation District, Santa Fe Irrigation District, Vista Irrigation District,
Lindsay Strathmore Irrigation District, and numerous others.
Lippincott made several trips to the Hawaiian Islands where he was employed by the Oahu Sugar Company in connection with
the Waiahole water supply and the construction of the Nuuanu reservoir. He also served as consultant on the Wahiawa Water
Company's spillway project and later was employed by the City of Honolulu in connection with its domestic system.
His work also included investigations and a report on the diversion of a large water supply from one watershed to another
near Fairbanks, Alaska, for a large hydraulic mining operation.
Lippincott served on many boards of consulting engineers for the federal government, the State of California, and various
municipalities. He was a member of a board of engineers on the preparation of the original flood control plans for Los Angeles
County in 1915 and later, for a time, was consultant during the construction of this project. His office also prepared plans
for flood control and water conservation for Santa Barbara County and Orange County, California. As a member of the consulting
board of the State of California, he aided in the development of a state-wide water plan. At the time of his death he was
consulting engineer for the International Boundary Commission between the United States and Mexico, as well as consulting
engineer for the U.S. Engineer Office, Los Angeles District, on the design and construction of numerous large flood control
dams and appurtenant works. He was also a member of the advisory committee on the U.S. Weather Bureau for the National Sciences
Lippincott died on November 4, 1942, in Arlington, California at the age of 78.
Note: This biographical sketch is extracted from the "Memoir" on Lippincott prepared by Kenneth Q. Volk and Edgar Alan Rowe
which appeared in the
Transactions of the American Society of Civil Engineers, volume 108, 1943 (pp. 1543-1550).
Collection Scope and Contents
This is an annotated listing of reports, papers and photographs in the J.B. Lippincott collection, Water Resources Collections
and Archives, University of California, Riverside.
The collection is arranged here in the order in which it was kept by Lippincott, i.e., alphabetically by name of contracting
agency, project title, or geographical entity.
Manuscript materials in the collection of the Water Resources Collections and Archives cannot be loaned. Arrangements can
be made to photocopy items of interest.
The Van Valkenburgh sketch of Lippincott used as a frontispiece is reproduced by courtesy of Bancroft Library of the University
of California, Berkeley.
The photographs in this collection were cataloged by Rochelle Zelzer and Sharon Laven. Project supervisors are J.W. Johnson,
Professor of Hydraulic Engineering, and David K. Todd, Professor of Civil Engineering.
Collection number updated February 2019. Legacy collection number was LIPP. This change was part of a project in 2018/2019
to update the collection numbers for collections in the Water Resources Collections and Archives.
The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the
library's online public access catalog.
Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (Calif.)
Dams -- California
Groundwater -- California
Los Angeles Aqueduct (Calif.)
Owens Valley (Calif.)
Water resources development -- California
Water resources development -- West (U.S.)
Water-supply -- California
Waterworks -- California