The Zanja Madre

The Zanja Madre (Mother Ditch) is the original aqueduct that brought water to the Pueblo de Los Angeles from the Rio Porciuncula (Los Angeles River). It was originally an open, earthen ditch that was completed by community laborers within a month of founding the pueblo in 1781.

The Zanja Madre system ran from the Los Angeles River for more than a mile to La Placita, where the Olvera Street marketplace is now. Residents not only got their drinking water from the ditch, but its water also irrigated the surrounding vineyards and farmland. On the left, a image shows a woman carrying a jug of water from the Zanja Madre at La Placita’s well.