The mission of the Twentynine Palms Water District is to provide a safe and adequate supply of water at the lowest feasible cost to the people of the district and to preserve and protect the water resources within the established boundaries of the district. (Resolution 99-17)
The earliest settlers of Twentynine Palms were Native Americans who lived around the Oasis of Mara. The availability of water at the Oasis (whose palm trees gave us "Twentynine Palms") made it a frequent stop for miners, pioneers and cattlemen of the early 1800's and early 1900's.
The harsh environment and lack of water were a challenge to homesteaders who came here during those years. The climate was beneficial, however, for many suffering the effects of mustard gas exposure during World War I or asthma. Because of this, Twentynine Palms continued to grow.
Developers providing a meager water supply to residents formed small, private, independent water companies. The first public water system was the unincorporated Twentynine Palms Water Company. In 1938, it was granted a certificate of public convenience and necessity. In 1948, it and the other private companies were combined to form the Twentynine Palms Utility Company under authority granted by the Public Utilities Commission. In 1953, the Pacific Water Company purchased this water company and the Desert Water Company.
The second public utility to form was the Abell Water Company in 1939. It served a small area of residents to the northwest area of the Pacific Water Company. In addition, private water purveyor Condor Mutual formed in 1947 and served a small community north of the Abell Water Company.
The Twentynine Palms County Water District was created in 1954 when the community voted, by a 5-1 margin, to form a County Water District (Water Code 30000 et seq.). Members of the Chamber of Commerce known as the "Water Committee" spearheaded this community effort. Elected to the Charter Board of Directors were: John Wuerth, John Bagley, William Hatch Jr., John Lyon Sr. and Joseph Wasserburger.
The District acquired Pacific Water Company, Abell Water Company and Condor Mutual after the community voted again in 1955, by a 10-1 margin, to incur an $800,000 bonded indebtedness. Of that loan, $500,000 was allocated toward the purchase of the 3 private water companies. The remainder was budgeted for much needed maintenance and improvement of the existing systems.
Prior to this time, the community had virtually no emergency water storage system. The 200,000 gallons available would not have lasted a day in an emergency. The District also had a leaky and substandard pipeline system that did not come near to meeting the needs of the community. From 1955 through the 1960's, some progress was made through capital improvements and projects.
The first major improvements began in 1956 with the construction of a 1 million gallon water storage reservoir on Donnell Hill, followed by a 5.5 mile re-piping project. In 1957, the Hansen Tract pressure system was refurbished.
Capital improvements continued in 1959 when the District contracted to have a well drilled in the Indian Cove area. Now with 6 wells, Indian Cove continues to be a major source of potable water for the District, along with 6 additional production wells. During 1960, a substantial amount of water pipe was either replaced or installed in a number of key areas around Twentynine Palms.
Another effort to upgrade the emergency storage and delivery capacity of the District began in 1965 with the construction of Plant 6, a 42,000 gallon holding tank. Plant 8, another 42,000 gallon holding tank was constructed in 1968, followed by Plant 11A, a 500,000 gallon storage reservoir built in 1969 in Indian Cove. The 1.5 million gallon Hansen storage reservoir was built in 1975. The 40,000-gallon Luckie storage tank was built in 1982 and has since been sold to the Twentynine Palms Park and Recreation District. With the exception of the Hansen water storage reservoir and Luckie tank, the bulk of activity within the District between 1969 and 1983 was routine maintenance.
In 1983, things began to move forward again when a ground water study was conducted by the Department of Water Resources (DWR), leading to the development of a District Master Plan, published in June 1984. It became imperative that the District address key issues within the water system: deteriorating, leaky pipes; inadequate firefighting water pressure; inadequate water storage.
The California State Health Department demanded in November 1984, that the District submit a timeline for implementation of the master plan. The District was facing major problems: a badly deteriorating water pipeline system, a declining water table and unacceptably high fluoride levels.
Four more storage reservoirs were constructed in 1986, 1988 1989, and 1990. The District is now at a 14 million gallon storage capacity. In addition, a 1 million and a 2 million gallon reservoir, partially funded by an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) grant, are scheduled for construction in fiscal year 2005/2006. A 6-year re-piping project funded through a DWR loan was completed in July 1996, replacing 58 miles of pipeline. The re-piping project was restarted in November 1997 and funded out-of-pocket. In 1999, $800,000 in EPA funding was received to aid in the completion of the project. This re-piping project was completed in 2003.
In 1998 the District gained $1.7 million in EPA grant funds to assist with the building of a fluoride removal water treatment plant. The plant came on-line in March 2003, enabling the District to tap into the water source of the Mesquite Springs aquifer. The plant is designed to remove high levels of fluoride from the water in the aquifer, enhancing the water supply for the residents within the District.
An infrastructure restoration study funded through a U.S. Corps of Engineers grant was completed in 1998 and led to seismic retrofitting for all storage reservoirs. In addition, the site at Campbell Reservoir has been rehabilitated to control erosion and a flood control wall was erected along with new exterior paint and fencing at Donnell Hill.
Beginning in late 2005, the District again gained $1.8 million in EPA grant funds to assist in the construction of a million-gallon water storage reservoir south of Sullivan Road (in Section 35)and a two-million gallon water storage reservoir south of Samarkand Drive (in Section 24). Other improvements include three booster pump stations associated with the reservoirs and approximately 43,000 linear feet of 12-inch diameter pipeline along existing road and pipeline right of way.
The million gallon reservoir provides water storage in an area that did not have any. Both reservoirs and the associated pipelines will enhance system reliability and fire flows in those areas. The additional water source to the Lear area will enhance system reliabilities to a very large portion of the District. The combination of these improvements will give the District the ability to accept and deliver water from the recently completed fluoride removal plant to the entire District ensuring adequate water supplies far into the future.
When it began, the District contained about 32.5 square miles of largely vacant land, with the major water demands along Twentynine Palms Highway and Adobe Road. The District now encompasses a total area of about 87 square miles and serves a population of about 18,000. It maintains approximately 8,000 meter services, 200 miles of pipeline and 14 million gallons of water storage capacity. The services supplied are primarily residential, with a small percentage of commercial and light industrial.
The Board of Directors voted to extend its responsibilities to include fire protection in 1958 after the California Department of Forestry ceased providing local fire protection. The City of Twentynine Palms incorporated in 1987 and is within the boundaries of the District. The District serves the City, and areas outside of the City, with water. As of July 1, 2016 fire protection is provided by San Bernardino County Fire.
The United States Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, which began as an Air Force Glider Base in 1941 and is now the largest training center for the United States Marine Corps, is located north of the District's service area and is independent of the District for both water and fire services.