The Spring Valley Water Company (SVWC) owned much of the Alameda Creek Watershed and had held a monopoly on water service to San Francisco. In 1906, William Bowers Bourn a major stockholder in the SVWC, commissioned the design for a "water temple" atop the spot where three subterranean water sources converge before plunging into a deeper water channel. This channel carries water to the Niles Aqueduct and across Dumbarton Bridge to the Crystal Springs Reservoir. The final design was by architect Willis Polk.

The New Melones Dam on the Stanislaus River was authorized in 1944 as a unit of the Central Valley Project to provide irrigation water to the fertile agricultural region of the state. In 1966, work began to clear the foundations for a high dam that would replace an earlier structure built by two irrigation districts. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began construction of the main embankment in 1976, which was topped out in late 1978. Water storage in New Melones Lake commenced in 1978, and the dam's hydroelectric station produced its first power in mid-1979. Management of New Melones Lake, California's fourth largest reservoir in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada was transferred to the Bureau of Reclamation upon completion. The focus of a long environmental controversy, it was one of the last large dams built in California.

William Wurster's San Leandro Water Filtration plant (1926) and Donald Olsen's Richmond Sanitary Service plant (1974) demonstrate how design reflects technology of the times.