Water haulers ask for alternatives

Water haulers ask for alternativesWater haulers gather at the IWVWD meeting on Monday — Photo by Laura Austin

------

By BRIAN COSNER, News Review Staff Writer

The Indian Wells Valley Water District has plans to temporarily shut down its southwestern bulk water station for upgrades and maintenance. The new system will allow water haulers to pay only for the water that they draw, but will leave dozens of users without convenient access to water for months.

Many local haulers are concerned about the cross-town trips they will have to make until the station is scheduled to be completed in March at the earliest.

“You’re asking us to drive our water trucks out onto [State Route 178/South China Lake Boulevard] which is a 55-miles-per-hour zone,” said water hauler Kelly Yuen. “I have a 500-gallon tank on my trailer that’s precarious at best.”

Yuen said her typical quarter-mile trip usually takes her 10 minutes, but the Sunland water station is five miles away from where many of the haulers live. Others haulers said that water trucks that are not street legal, trucks that are otherwise in poor condition and poor roads are other obstacles to the trek.

“Going across town is going to be awful for us,” said Cindy Dottery, who said she makes the trip several times a week during the summer months.

Water District Operations Manager Jason Lillion said the upgrades were scheduled for this time of year specifically to avoid cutting into the warmer months where water hauling is busiest.

“The current station is dilapidated and requires continuous work,” said Lillion. “The valve takes at least 30 seconds to close, which usually causes overflows. With the new system, you can punch in exactly how much water you need. Type in 300 gallons and that’s how much it gives you.”

The new system also enables the district to charge a volumetric rate for water use. Customers will see a reduction from $38.80 to $28.68 per month with an added charge of $2.63 per hundred cubic feet (about 750 gallons) of water.

But haulers will see a temporary rate hike as the water district recently approved its new rate structure. As of Jan. 1, and until the new station is ready to use, haulers will be charged a flat rate of $47.11 per month.

Former Chuck Griffin, a former member of the IWVWD board, suggested that the district provide a secure meter to a fire hydrant on South China Lake Blvd and grant haulers temporary access while the station is retrofitted.

His suggestion was met by applause by several haulers in attendance.

“Water haulers are an important part of our community,” said Raymond Kelso. “These folks should at least get as much of your attention as what you give to the pistachio farmers.

“You have at least 39 families that haul water. Have any of you hauled water? It’s a chore.”

Members of the public also mentioned potential legal concerns for the district as a result of any traffic accidents when haulers cross Highway 178.

Legal Counsel Jim Worth said that this was the first he heard of the haulers’ need to cross the highway and that he would have to look further into the issue.

Director Stan Rajtora asked if there were any downsides to Griffin’s proposal, and President Don Cortichiato said that the water from the hydrant is not considered legal drinking water.

“The hydrants may not be potable, but you can very easily install a locking system on the hydrant with a sign that says, ‘Do not drink the water,’” said Griffin.

“I bet 100 percent of the people do not drink water from their truck, they probably drink bottled water.”

During public comment, Pat Farris suggested that the district could provide a water truck for the haulers to use temporarily. Cortichiato seconded the idea as worthy of consideration.

The board made no firm commitments, but asked staff to consider possible alternatives for the water haulers.

Story First Published: 2019-01-18