By Yvonne Hester, Community Liaison Officer
As California continues to experience year five of a statewide drought, hopes of a saving El Niño continue to elude the Golden State. Here in the High Desert, periods of drought are part of the native climate, requiring the Mojave Water Agency to continually monitor and invest in plans and programs to ensure water for today and tomorrow. Among the Agency’s newest programs is the Small Systems Assistance Program (SSAP) that has been named as a finalist for an award of excellence from the Association of California Water Agencies.
During the past two decades, MWA invested heavily in large capital projects such as pipelines and recharge facilities, but today the focus is on optimization of resources, thanks to community input during the 2014 Integrated Regional Water Management Plan. Increased participation in the plan’s process resulted in the committee ranking assistance for disadvantaged communities as a top priority.
Unlike the larger water providers, resources are scarce for the small providers. The new program was developed to assist disadvantaged and severely disadvantaged small water systems that lack staff, expertise, and funding to address both water quality and reliability. While the MWA region is served by 10 large water purveyors, there are also some 40 smaller systems that provide water to homes and businesses.
Residents living in disadvantaged communities deserve quality water, but often maintaining infrastructure is costly. Many of the small systems have pipelines, pumps, and storage reservoirs that are 30-50 years old, resulting in a variety of water-quality issues. Many of the small water systems are challenged with naturally occurring and manmade water quality issues, including arsenic, fluoride, and Chromimum-6.
In an effort to address these concerns, a committee formed by the IRWM Plan Project team was formed, and the MWA Board of Directors approved an initial $200,000.00 program budget for a contract with the California Rural Water Association to provide small water systems expertise. Under the MWA Small Water Systems Assistance Program, a local expert was made available to discuss containment solutions including consolidation of two or more systems, blending water, or well head treatment.
As a result of the MWA program, a number of grants for small systems were submitted, and Gordon Acres Mutual Water Company in Lucerne Valley received a grant of $468,000.00 from the State Water Resources Control Board. These funds will help develop a water system plan to address insufficient delivery, water outages, and water quality violations.
Other small water systems in the region also have received assistance from the program. All requesting water systems have received on-site assistance for technical, managerial and financial challenges, as well as need assessments, leak detection audits, conservation plan assistance, and rate studies. MWA also has provided 10 free workshops and has made available wastewater expert help.
For more information on this program, contact Mojave Water Agency at 760.946.7000.
2016 High Desert Water Summit to Feature State and Local Experts
Winner of Student Essay Contest Also Featured
“Predicting Our Future by Our Own Design” was the theme of the 2016 High Desert Water Summit held April 13 at the Barstow Community College Performing Arts Center. Each speaker focused on key issues and resources that serve to shape the region’s water future. Speakers included Dr. Christopher Thornberg, founding partner of Beacon Economics, based in Los Angeles. He provided an economic and population profile of the region. Ellen Hanak, Senior Fellow and Director of the Public Policy Institute Water Policy Center in San Francisco, provided a statewide overview of water management issues, as well as climate challenges. Additionally, Lance Eckhart, MWA Director of Basin Management and Water Resources, presented water supply and demand projections included in the current update of the Regional Urban Water Management Plan.
Also Enrique Arcilla, the 15-year-old essay contest winner, a sophomore at the Academy for Academic Excellence in Apple Valley, presented his essay titled “The Path to Sustainability” at the April 13 event. As the winner, Arcilla received a $5,000 scholarship.
The Water Summit ran from 7:15 to 11:30 a.m. on April 13 at the Barstow Community College Preforming Arts Center. The campus is located at 2700 Barstow Road.
The cost for the event was just $10 and included a full breakfast buffet.