The 76 Land and Water Company was formed on June 7, 1882 with $280,000 in capital stock divided into 14 shares. The company took its name from Tulare State senator and cattleman Thomas Fowler’s "76 Ranch" which had significant land holdings in the area. In March 1884, the company moved its headquarters from its original location in Visalia to the newly formed town of Traver. The original intent was to develop a water supply and canal network to divert water from the Kings River to serve lands owned by the company near Traver.
Due to the numerous landholdings, rising importance of water and the passage of legislation that allowed for public irrigation districts (Wright Act), 19 landowners posted a petitioner’s bond of $1,000 in U.S. gold coin to initiate an election process to form a public irrigation district. The community held an election August 14, 1888 and voted 326 to 19 to form the second public irrigation district in California. It was named "Alta", which in Spanish means high or highest due to the fact that Alta’s diversion location on the Kings River is the highest diversion point and first diversion point on the river.
On December 4, 1888, the directors voted 3 to 2 to move the irrigation district office from Traver to Dinuba. The directors also authorized a bond election to improve and expand the canal and delivery infrastructure of the newly formed district. By 1909 the district was serving nearly 80,000 acres of farmland.
Currently, Alta Irrigation District is the only irrigation district formed under the Wright Act with 7 directors and comprises of 130,000 acres. Irrigation district law provides for 3 or 5 directors. Alta carried specific legislation in 1996 to enable Alta Irrigation District to add two directors for the two incorporated cities within its district, Dinuba and Reedley. All director divisions have equal populations that are reviewed and adjusted with each decennial census. The primary function of the district is to deliver surface water to agricultural parcels and administer its groundwater management program under AB 3030.