Bob Towles spent 49 years with the U.S. U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, retiring as the director of the Lower Colorado Region.
Bob Towles: A Life with the Bureau
(The story below is built around a recorded interview)
Bob Towles knew from an early age that the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) was a great place to work. After his mother passed away when he was about seven, a family friend stepped in to raise him, and she happened to work for BOR on the All American Canal, a canal carrying Colorado River water to agricultural areas of Southern California.
So when he hit high school, Towles started working at BOR as a gardener, followed by time as a janitor in the dormitories and a worker in the vehicle service department. He attended the University of Arizona and even worked summers as a lab technician. So after he got his degree in civil engineering, he stayed at the Bureau, working his way through many different positions over the next 49 years.
In 1986, Towles was transferred to Phoenix as the Project Manager in the Arizona project office.
“We were in charge of all the construction, the design work and construction, and when we would finish it, we would turn it over to CAWCD and they would operate it. And so that was the way it was,” said Towles.
It was cutting edge engineering and it was not always easy. There were vibration problems at Havasu Pumping Plant (later renamed Mark Wilmer Pumping Plant), concerns about exploding pipes in the inverted siphons and issues surrounding water quality in Tucson. But the problems were ironed out and the project was turned over to CAP to maintain and operate.
Towles finished his long and distinguished career as the Director of the Lower Colorado River Region of the U.S Bureau of Reclamation.