Over 100 Years of Service as Your Local Independent Water District

The story of Citrus Heights Water District: yesterday, today, and tomorrow.

Men Working by River
Our Story 1

Citrus Heights Water District’s Beginnings

Our water and founding have a long history dating back to the Gold Rush era in 1856 when the North Fork Ditch was built to pull water from the high Sierra Nevada traveling through the North Fork of the American River. Water was needed to separate gold from earth, but it was the vision of others eyeing the fertile flatland soil that would ultimately lead to sustainable growth. A claim was made for 3,000 miner’s inches, or about nine gallons of water per minute, from the river. The canal they built would reach 33 miles long, 3 feet deep, 8 feet wide at the top, and 5 feet wide at the bottom.

The Wright Act of 1887

Development progressed as the population exploded, but the environmental damage caused by mining led to a series of dam failures and floods. In a region that had become known for its agricultural bounty, continued growth was dependent on a reliable source of water. The Wright Act of 1887 was passed by California legislature on March 7, 1887, allowing farming regions to form and bond irrigation districts—paving the way for small farm owners to band together, pool resources, and get water to where it was needed.

October 25, 1920: The Citrus Heights Water District Is Established

The Orange Vale Water company was formed in 1896, purchasing water from the North Fork Ditch Company with early deliveries accomplished by wooden tank wagons. The Citrus Heights Water Irrigation District was established on October 25, 1920, to meet the needs of a growing community serving 4.7 square miles and 225 farms—the last of three local districts.

In February of 1921, the first election of Board members took place with 112 votes cast. At the time, the District leased the existing pipe system of the Citrus Heights Water Takers Association. In July 1921, a bond election approved $262,000 for construction of additional pipe facilities considering the use of redwood, fir, and steel pipes; soil-proofed steel pipe was the approved choice.

A Focus On Water Conservation From The Beginning


Water supply availability and water conservation were as important to the new District as they are today. In 1924 water supplies were limited by the North Fork Ditch Company. As early as 1926, the Board of Directors engaged in discussions regarding placing water meters on small tracts of land.

In January of 1927, L.K. Jordan, manager of the North Fork Ditch Company, made a presentation to the Board of Directors and urged that users irrigate at night to balance the flow during the peak irrigation season. A series of siren blasts alerted residents and farmers to the water being turned off—the beginning of our continued focus on water efficiency and conservation.

The Path To The Present

In 1951, the Directors of Citrus Heights Irrigation District, Fair Oaks Water District, and Orange Vale Water Company formed the San Juan Water Districts Association, which facilitated the establishment of the San Juan Water District, our wholesale water provider since 1955.

CHWD’s surface water supply is now provided by the San Juan Water District (SJWD). SJWD acquired the North Fork Ditch Company water rights and facilities and has subsequently contracted with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation for additional water from Folsom Lake. SJWD treats the Folsom Lake water to drinking water standards at its water treatment plant near the southeastern edge of Folsom Lake in Granite Bay. The treated water is delivered to Citrus Heights Water District and other water agencies within the SJWD service area.

Photos Credit: Bureau of Reclamation

Expanding To Accommodate Growing Needs

Citing the growing District’s need for additional water delivery capacity and aging infrastructure, a 1956 $750,000 bond issue was approved by a vote of 516-25 for construction of the District’s 42-inch transmission pipeline. The construction of this pipeline was completed in 1958 and remains in service today as one of the District’s primary surface water delivery facilities.

In 1994 the District changed its name from Citrus Heights Irrigation District to Citrus Heights Water District to better reflect the District’s business.

A Spirit Of Partnership

American River

In the mid-1990s, the District joined with other area water agencies and representatives from other government, commerce, and environmental interests in crafting the Sacramento Area Water Forum Agreement. This noteworthy Agreement, seven years in negotiating, was executed in 2000 and has as its core objectives “Preservation of the fishery, wildlife, recreational, and aesthetic value of the Lower American River and providing a reliable and safe water supply for the region’s economic health and planned development through to the year 2030.”


Investing In The Future

Aerial View

The District has grown to over 12.8 square miles in territory, serving a population of about 70,000 in five communities, including approximately two-thirds of the City of Citrus Heights and portions of Fair Oaks, Orangevale, Carmichael, and Roseville, California.

To ensure that future investments address the needs and input from the communities we serve, CHWD formed a Customer Advisory Committee (CAC). This committee works with a technical team to consider options to replace water mains and meters while analyzing key financial and technical issues.

CHWD Water Projects

Water Project Thumbnail_About Us Page

Today, CHWD remains focused on our mission to furnish a dependable supply of safe, quality water delivered to its customers in an efficient, responsive, and affordable manner.

Capital improvement projects help CHWD maintain its infrastructure and keep it up to date, increase needed capacity, and continue to provide great service to its customers.

Learn more about current and recently completed CHWD projects here.