About the Colony

Atascadero water company marks 100 years in business

Special to The TribuneAugust 19, 2013 

Lon Allan


Last Thursday night, about 100 local residents attended the monthly Atascadero Chamber of Commerce mixer. The social moves from business to business throughout the year. But this month’s event was held in the corporation yard of Atascadero Mutual Water Co., the city’s oldest continuing business.

Atascadero property owners don’t get “city water.” The private water company is a mutually-owned endeavor. Every property owner in the Colony is part-owner in the water company. For even the smallest parcel, you own at least one share. Larger parcels mean more shares. Those attending the water company’s reception were able to look over the water company’s newest equipment, which includes computer mapping and pumping equipment. The guests were standing with a good view of the water reservoir atop Pine Mountain, where founder E.G. Lewis had the first tanks built. The original redwood tanks, built in 1914, served the community until 1959.

Last Tuesday marked the official 100th anniversary of the water purveyor. The Articles of Incorporation were filed on Aug. 2, 1913.

A large piece of the original redwood water mains was on display, right next to today’s standard for water delivery, PVC pipe.

The firm is governed by a board of directors elected by the shareholders.

John Neal is the water company’s general manager. He loves to talk about the history of the water company and is quick to credit Lewis for his foresight into providing water for his new California community. In fact, Lewis’ Colony Holding Corp. underwrote the cost of water to new residents to encourage residents to plant fruit and vegetable gardens.

Atascadero’s founder had hoped that residents could sustain themselves on small parcels of land. In fact, Lewis had this quote from Abraham Lincoln engraved on the front of the City Administration Building: “The most valuable of all arts will be the art of deriving a comfortable subsistence from the smallest area of soil.” The quote is still there. He (Lewis) especially pushed that philosophy with his “Back to the Land” campaign and the development of Garden Farms Estates.

When Lewis bought the 23,000-acre Henry ranch, he hired a number of experts in soils, hydrology, surveying, civil engineering and more. His water expert, H.T. Cory, helped Lewis plan all the sites for reservoirs within the Colony, which are spot on, and he (Cory) told his boss that he would have an abundant water supply long into the future for his dream town. I guess he knew what he was talking about.

Lon Allan has lived in Atascadero for nearly five decades, and his column is published weekly. Reach him at 466-8529 or leallan@tcsn.net.

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