The oldest business
in Tustin, the City of Tustin Water Service, has survived three owners and
three names and is still going strong after 120 years.
depended on wells to provide water for their domestic needs, but in 1887,
Charles F. and Hiram Willard and Henry Adams formed Willard Brothers Water
Works to provide piped-in water to the homes in Tustin.
artesian well at the corner of Main and Prospect, they began to install pipes
and expected to prosper with the boom of the late 1800s. However the business
faltered when the boom fizzled out and a depression began in the mid 1890s.
Adams left the firm
and Hiram Willard moved to Northern California. Charles Willard struggled with
the losing venture until 1897 when he sold it to his former schoolmate, C. E.
Utt. Utt paid him $2,000 for the business, which reportedly lost money for the
next 30 years. Willard was said to have a loss of $6,000 plus.
Utt changed the
name to Tustin Water Works and drilled a new well. To cut costs, he replaced
the steam-driven pumps with gasoline-driven pumps.
In Volume I,
“History of Orange County,” (Mrs. J.E. Pleasants, 1931), Utt wrote, “I,
probably because I didn’t know any better, took over the business and have
operated it for 35 years. During this period, it has increased from 50
customers to 800, or from a losing business to a fairly profitable one.
cannot be taken as a gauge of population growth. A large part of it is due to
the extension of the mains to include new territory. Now the old Willard Water
Works serves a territory as large as the city of Santa Ana with only about one
tenth the population.”
The Utt family
operated the water works for over 80 years. Walter Rawlings, Utt’s stepson,
became superintendent and was in charge during the post World War II growth in
Tustin. New equipment and replacement buildings maintained the efficiency of
The city of Tustin
acquired the Tustin Water Works in 1982 as part of its Public Works
Department, changing the name to City of Tustin Water Service. In early 2000
they began a renovation program which included building an underground
reservoir with a capacity of 2.2 million gallons at the cost of nearly $9
They have replaced
the old buildings at the corner of Prospect and Main with new structures using
a style of architecture reminiscent of the 1900s and added two municipal
parking lots and a small park with water features to the property. The new
buildings house a well, pumps, generator and treatment plant.
way at present include construction of three new ground water wells and
reconstruction of two reservoirs. Facilities include 12 ground wells which
provide 75 percent of the water used in Tustin, ion exchange and reverse
osmosis water treatment plants and a water desalting facility.
company is keeping up with the times.