SYLMAR -- He strutted to the Los Angeles Aqueduct sporting his trademark homburg, some three-piece bravado and enough vision to last 100 years.
When "chief engineer William Mulholland" marked the centennial of the city's greatest engineering achievement Tuesday at the aqueduct cascades above Sylmar, he was joined by some very distinguished friends.
"We come here to celebrate this great day," said "President Teddy Roosevelt," a double of the portly former Rough Rider, to a throng of Los Angeles leaders, Department of Water and Power officials, residents and schoolchildren. "And a new birth for a Promised Land."
They came to re-enact that day a century ago when Los Angeles raised the water gates on its 233-mile-long aqueduct to the Sierra, opening the floodgates on 100 years of growth and progress.
They came to herald a historic pueblo of more than 300,000 residents, willing to foot the $23 million bill.
They came to honor the vision of former Los Angeles Mayor Fred Eaton, who saw in the far-away Owens Valley enough water to quench the thirst of a ballooning city, then waged a secret campaign to acquire it.
They came to salute "the Chief" and his 100,000 workers who built the aqueduct -- an epic steel-and-cement waterway that took five years to carve through searing desert, solid rock and freezing mountains with mules and hand and power tools. Forty-three sacrificed their lives so Los Angeles could grow 13-fold.
And they came to look ahead at a new era of water conservation, recycling and groundwater cleanup, DWP officials said, with Los Angeles poised to cut its century of imported water by half.
Instead of the 40,000 Angelenos who spread out before the Newhall Pass to watch the water fall on Nov. 5, 1913, an estimated 500 turned out Tuesday hemmed in by a dozen lanes of Interstate 5.
"Los Angeles can, must and will protect its destiny," said Mayor Eric Garcetti during a hillside ceremony that was simulcast at DWP headquarters downtown. "We still import more than 50 percent of our water, and we pay the price.
"In a span of a century, we have not only changed the course of water, but of history itself," he said. "So as we might have said in the past, 'Here it is. Take it!' I say to you today: Here it still is. Let us treasure it. Let us conserve it. Let us share it. It is our legacy. It is our right. But it is also our responsibility. Let us continue to build great things. Let us build a great L.A."
As Santa Ana winds kicked up clouds of dust at the base of the cascades, a period brass band played "I love you, California," before actors playing such period luminaries as Mulholland, Eaton and Harry Chandler addressed a tented throng.
Their descendents, Christina Mulholland, John Eaton and Harry Brant Chandler, then spoke of the legacy of L.A. water in a parched nearly desert region. And of not having any more imported water to draw from.
"There is no more water," said Christina Mulholland, of San Luis Obispo. "The challenge is to educate the next generation to understand where their water comes from, the cost to get it, to treat it and to deliver it. My great-grandfather once said, 'Enjoy the water. Never waste it.'"
The mustachioed Mulholland then ordered everyone to rise up and follow him to the 150-foot cascades. At exactly 1:20 p.m. -- 100 years since the Chief first lowered Old Glory to open the sluice gates -- Mulholland again waved the signal flag.
Far up on the bluff, a wall of water tumbled once again down the curving cascade.
"Just wait for it. Wait for it," he said, as the hissing water surged downward. "Here it comes.
"There it is. Take it!" ___