Vista, CA -Today, Vista Irrigation District (VID) serves water to over 134,000 customers; a century ago, it served a population of only 337 people. VID’s first annual report (from 1927) tells us that after the installation of the new water tanks, planting of citrus and avocados increased so rapidly that there was danger of running out of water. This crisis coincided with the building of Henshaw Dam in 1923, which was constructed in just seven months, by the San Diego County Water Company. Completion of the dam made it possible for the Vista community to receive a reliable source of water, instead of relying on local wells.
Considerable time and effort were spent in convincing some reluctant owners of the advantages and advisability of forming a district so outside water could be obtained. An election was held on August 28, 1923, and 100% of the eligible voters participated; the outcome was 104 votes for and four votes against formation of Vista Irrigation District (also known as VID).
The area celebrated the arrival of the first water from Lake Henshaw on February 27, 1926. Following the arrival of water, crops of all kinds were planted in increasing numbers, and the Vista area became known as the “Avocado Capital of the World,” with six avocado packing houses in the area.
In June 1946, after several years of negotiations, Vista Irrigation District purchased the San Diego County Water Company. Included in the purchase was the 43,000 acre Warner Ranch, a former Spanish Land Grant, which includes Henshaw Dam and Lake Henshaw. Purchase of these facilities was purely economic, in that it was a result of a search for cheaper water for the District.
Drought conditions and population growth eventually caused the District to look for other sources of water. On February 16, 1954, The District became a member of the San Diego County Water Authority to take advantage of water imported from the Colorado River and Northern California.
The year 1955 saw a breakthrough in this agricultural community, when the first city-type, mass-built subdivisions were started. The year 1955 also was the beginning of the decline of Vista as an avocado producing and packing center. This was due primarily to the collapse of the price structure (and the drought), which would continue well into the 1960’s. Many groves were split into parcels, and the building of homes on these parcels and in subdivisions continued throughout this period.
The vote of the people in 1923 revolutionized this small rural settlement inhibited by the lack of water. VID’s century of service and stewardship has transformed this community from cattle grazing and dry farming to an agricultural wonderland and now into what it is today: a thriving community with a substantial business park, a professional theater production, and a revitalized downtown. VID has demonstrated its ability to adapt with these ever-changing landscapes over time; it is proud of its track record over the last century and looks forward to many more successful years of service to the community.