MS 188 Philip Martin Water Development Collection

Summary Information

San Diego History Center Document Collection
Martin, Philip P.
Philip Martin Water Development Collection
MS 188
Date [inclusive]
1.0 Linear feet (2 boxes)
This collection consists of documents collected by Philip Martin pertaining to the conflicts related to the development of water resources in San Diego County between 1913 and 1969.

Preferred Citation

Philip Martin Water Development Collection, MS 188, San Diego History Center Document Collection, San Diego, CA.

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Biographical / Historical Notes

Philip P. Martin was born in Hutchinson, Kansas in the mid 1890s. He moved to San Diego, California as a child, where he attended Our Lady of Peace Academy. He enlisted in the Army Air Corps during World War I and served as first lieutenant. After his military service he owned and operated Martin’s Dairy in Santee, where he was a rancher for 30 years till his retirement in 1951. As riparian landowners along the San Diego River, he and his neighbors were directly affected by water development projects on the river, particularly the construction of the El Capitan Dam. Philip Martin led a lawsuit against the City of San Diego in the mid-1930s concerning the use of that dam. His interest in San Diego’s water problems continued for decades after the case, and he continued to collect related materials and to correspond with city officials on the subjects of dams, flood control, and water reclamation.

San Diego is located in an arid region with a 10-11 year flood cycle, meaning it gets long stretches of drought followed by disastrous rains. The cycle is occasionally skipped, so immense amounts of water must be stored to satisfy the population during long dry spells. Mission Valley is particularly prone to flood damage, a problem that has never been completely resolved. The needs of the City of San Diego have often come into conflict with the needs of local farmers and other city districts.

In 1911 the Cuyamaca Water Company, headed by Colonel Ed Fletcher, purchased the land that was to become the El Capitan Dam site. In 1919 the U.S. government granted the City of San Diego 1,940 acres of the Capitan Grande Indian Reservation and 141 acres of the Cleveland National Forest upon which to build a reservoir. The Cuyamaca Water Company partially developed the land, but came under legal attack by Philip P. Martin and the other riparian landowners whose water supply would be cut off by the construction of the dam. The land was sold to the La Mesa, Lemon Grove, and Spring Valley Irrigation District in 1926, and then to the City of San Diego in 1933, which carried on the legal battle to procure all San Diego River water for the use of city inhabitants.

The lawsuit against the City, commonly referred to as the Cuyamaca Water Case, finally came to a close in 1938. The Supreme Court decision reaffirmed the City’s paramount rights to the water of the San Diego River, but also granted certain allocations for riparian landowners, as well as the La Mesa, Lemon Grove, and Spring Valley Irrigation District.

Despite the construction of numerous dams, including El Capitan, Otay, Savage, Hodges, Barrett, and San Vicente, local resources still could not keep up with growing demand. The Colorado River Compact in 1922 included California as one of the states entitled to an allocation of the Colorado River, and the Metropolitan Water District was formed in 1927 to develop that entitlement. Boulder Dam was completed in 1935, and the All-American Canal in 1940, but legal conflicts with Arizona over the size of each state’s water allocation continued into the 1960s. The 1950s and 1960s also saw renewed interest in the issues of flood control and water reclamation.

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Scope and Content

This collection consists of documentation pertaining to the development of water resources in Southern California between 1913 and 1969. Included are maps, reports, court documents, and correspondence collected by Santee dairy rancher Philip Martin. Reports include recommendations and conclusions by the California State Congress, the California Railroad Commission, and the San Diego City Council, as well as leading hydraulic engineers. Court documents include evidence used in the case of Philip Martin et al. vs. City of San Diego et al. Also included are numerous news clippings and brochures related to dam developments throughout Southern California, the Colorado River, flood control in San Diego County, and water reclamation projects.

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This collection is arranged into six series:

Series I: Water Developments: San Diego County

Series II: Water Rights: El Capitan Dam

Series III: Colorado River

Series IV: Flood Control

Series V: Water Conservation and Reclamation

Series IV: Miscellanea

Items in each series are arranged by subject.

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Administrative Information

Publication Information

San Diego History Center Document Collection March 26, 2012

1649 El Prado, Suite 3
San Diego, CA, 92101

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

The San Diego History Center (SDHC) holds the copyright to any unpublished materials. SDHC Library regulations do apply.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Accession number 761005.

Processing Information

Collection processed by Samantha Mills on March 26, 2012.

Collection processed as part of grant project supported by the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) with generous funding from The Andrew Mellon Foundation.

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Related Materials

Separated Materials

Five maps were previously separated to the SDHC Maps Collection: Southern California showing precipitation and gaging stations (1917); western part of San Diego County (1919); preliminary geologic map of San Diego County (1919); Southern California showing gaging stations, part B (1919); and San Luis Rey and Santa Margarita Valleys.

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Controlled Access Headings

Corporate Name(s)

  • Cuyamaca Water Company.
  • Railroad Commission of the State of California.

Geographic Name(s)

  • All-American Canal (Calif.)
  • Barrett Dam (Calif.)
  • Capitan Grande Indian Reservation (Calif.)
  • Colorado River (Colo.-Mexico)
  • El Capitan Dam (Calif.)
  • Hoover Dam (Ariz. and Nev.)
  • La Mesa (Calif.)
  • Lake Hodges Dam (Calif.)
  • Lemon Grove (Calif.)
  • Los Angeles (Calif.)
  • Lower Otay Dam (Calif.)
  • Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (Calif.)
  • San Diego (Calif.)
  • San Diego River (Calif.)
  • San Vicente Dam (Calif.)
  • Santee (Calif.)
  • Savage Dam (Calif.)
  • Spring Valley (Calif.)

Personal Name(s)

  • Fletcher, Ed
  • Martin, Philip P.
  • Pyle, Fred
  • Todd, Jim


  • Dams
  • Flood damage prevention
  • Flood dams and reservoirs
  • Hydraulic engineering
  • Legislative hearings — United States
  • Water conservation
  • Water reuse
  • Water rights

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Collection Inventory

 Series I: Water Developments: San Diego County

Reports and recommendations, 1924–1937 1:1
Reports and recommendations, 1949 1:2
Reports and recommendations, 1951-1960 1:3
Correspondence, 1938 September 10–1952 September 11


San Pasqual Valley Lands and Water Rights Tract Numbers (originally part of letter from Ed Fletcher Company to Fred Pyle, January 15, 1940) (in Oversize Collections D4)

Brochures and newsletters, 1957-1959 and undated 1:5
Newspaper articles, 1952 January 6–1961 October 21 and undated 1:6
Miscellanea, 1957 November 25–1959 April 29 and undated


Radio talk given by Jim Todd

Description of a bond issue by the San Diego County Water authority

Handwritten notes about the development of North Coastal waters


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 Series II: Water Rights: El Capitan Dam

Graphs and maps, 1912-1959


Diagram Showing Fluctuations of Water Tables in Observation Wells in San Luis Rey Valley 1912-1915 (in Oversize Collections D4)

Department of the Interior U.S. Geological Survey: Southern California Sheet No. 2., 1924 reprint of 1904 edition (in Oversize Collections D4)

Department of Water Resources map of State Water Resources Development System, 1959 (in Oversize Collections D4)

Reports and recommendations, 1922 December 4–1948 June 1 and undated 1:9
Philip Martin et al. vs. City of San Diego et al., 1935 August 8–1937 September 15 1:10
Governing decisions, 1913 March 28–1932 April 25


Decisions by the California Railroad Commission, San Diego City Council, and California State Congress

Correspondence, 1913 October 1–1941 March 11 2:2
Publicity, undated


Radio talk given by Philip Martin

Newspaper articles, 1936 July 24–1938 October 20 2:4
Miscellanea, undated


Drawings of a well and pipe on San Diego Pump

Well Drillers letterhead


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 Series III: Colorado River

Report on Farm and Range Conditions in Arizona, 1951 August 21 2:6
Correspondence, 1940 January 29–November 23 2:7
Brochures, 1936–1957 and undated 2:8
Newspaper articles, 1955–1960 and undated 2:9
Handwritten notes, undated 2:10

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 Series IV: Flood Control

Reports and recommendations, 1918–1959 2:11
Reports and recommendations, 1962 May 21


Flood Hazard Areas in San Diego County (originally after page 44) (in Oversize Collections D4)

Correspondence, 1938 December 23–1969 July 23 2:13
Newspaper articles, 1954 January 28–1961 August 10 2:14
Handwritten notes, undated 2:15

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 Series V: Water Conservation and Reclamation

Reports and recommendations, 1960 June 2:16
Reports and recommendations, 1967 and undated


Santee County Water District map of Santee Water Reclamation Project (originally after page 22 of The Development of “Total Use” Water Management at Santee, California) (in Oversize Collections D6)

Correspondence, 1961 July 31-August 30 2:18
Brochures, 1951-1968 2:19
Magazine and newspaper articles, 1956–1968 2:20

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 Series VI: Miscellanea

Miscellanea, 1959 and undated


Church announcement

Handwritten notes about Philip Martin’s World War I service


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Return to Archival Collections.