High Desert Living And Water Supply Reliability Mean Conservation By All

Staff Reports Advertorial

(Victor Valley)–Without a doubt, the California desert is a beautiful and peaceful place for raising a family, seeking solitude, or enjoying your golden years. No place is more special than the high desert around Apple Valley. The reasons for living here are many—stark grandeur, good weather, vast open space, quaint hidden communities with peaceful neighbors, and relative affordability. Although the desert is home to beautiful sunrises and sunsets, wildlife, and many other things, our water supply is limited. Apple Valley is a community working together to conserve this precious resource.

Tap water has a long history of being readily available and relatively inexpensive in the United States. For most of us, a glass of water is just a flick of the finger away. From sinks, showers and washers, to fighting fires, to operating schools, hospitals, nursing facilities and other commercial establishments—water is a life essential resource. Some experts estimate it requires about 120 gallons of water to produce just one chicken egg —from feed to feather, water grows and sustains life in more ways than we can imagine. Some take the availability of water for granted.

Also easily overlooked is a largely invisible infrastructure that pumps, treats, and transports thousands upon thousands of gallons of water through a vast network—the water distribution system—to meet our everyday needs.

In the western United States, much of the infrastructure for delivering water was built in the early 1950’s when new subdivisions were sprouting up everywhere. Since the vast water

infrastructure network that keeps water flowing is beneath our feet. The system is largely out of sight, and has been here for so long some rarely think about how it keeps water flowing. Typically, people only think of this network when if the system fails and quality water is not available. Moreover, the public does not see aging water delivery systems that require replacement over time. This replacement is essential ensure reliable water delivery and minimize water loss from leaks and main breaks.

In addition to wells, reservoirs and other facilities, Apple Valley Ranchos Water Company (Ranchos) operates and maintains over 450 miles of water pipeline. Operating at high pressures with ground temperature changes and movement, system failures happen, particularly as pipelines age. According to Ranchos, minimizing system failures and ensuring uninterrupted fresh, clean water supply to the community requires continuous investments in massive infrastructure buried underneath the ground. The life span of a water delivery system is roughly 60 to 70 years. Given the age of many of the water systems across the United States, they are in desperate need of investment for replacements and upgrades.

According to a report published by the American Water Works Association (AWWA), the restoration of aging water systems and necessary expansion to serve growing needs will cost upwards of $1 trillion across the United States over the next 25 years. This cost is to maintain current levels of water service. Delaying investments will likely cause issues, such as water service disruptions and increase emergency repair expenditures. Ranchos agrees with the AWWA that continued infrastructure investment decisions are a water industry best practice and bases their decisions on a thorough analysis.

“Our engineers know one linear foot of water main can cost several hundred dollars or upwards of a million dollars a mile to replace,” said Ranchos General Manager Scott Weldy. “Therefore, we choose our projects wisely given the overall expense.”

Ranchos plans to invest over $6 million in infrastructure during 2013. This money will replace aging steel water pipes with new water distribution mains, isolation valves for better water system control, and add fire hydrants for improved fire protection among other system improvements. These investments will help maintain system reliability and importantly reduce water loss associated with system failures.

Monitoring and maintaining infrastructure is very specialized, and subject matter expertise is necessary to maintain a viable utility that fosters health, safety, and water reliability. The Ranchos team of highly trained and experienced water professionals works diligently to ensure the reliability of the water system serving the Apple Valley community for generations to come.

Water delivery and use in the desert is a challenging matter. Proper management of supply, demand and delivery are all part of the equation and a matter of survival in our wonderful high desert oasis. A report by WaterSense, an Environmental Protection Agency partnership program, estimates an average American home of four people uses around 260 gallons of water per day—about 70 percent for indoor use such as drinking and bathing, the remaining 30 percent for outdoor use. In Apple Valley, the average family uses over 425 gallons per day. It is common to see per capita water use higher where water supply is, unfortunately, more limited.

Residents of Apply Valley have made tremendous inroads in reducing water use and protecting water supply reliability for the future. The average customer uses about 50 percent less water today than in 2007. These reductions come in all forms of wise water use, such as installing conservation devices in our homes. The Cash for Grass program, managed by Ranchos and sponsored by Mojave Water Agency, removed over 2 million square feet of grass turf and provided over $1million dollars in rebates to Ranchos customers for their effort. The water saved from this conservation is enough to supply water to about 700 families for an entire year. However, given our current supplies and an always-present risk of an extended drought, additional conservation needs to occur.

Some people quip that water conservation just means water rates will increase—a glittering generality designed to encourage people to accept a statement without really examining the evidence. Yes, given the need to cover all the costs of delivering water, rates do increase when consumption drops.

According to Ranchos, the average customer bill increased less than 5% on an annual basis since 2000, roughly in line with inflation. Customers who have not embraced conservation have seen their bills increase much more. The question everyone needs to ask is “What is the cost of not conserving water?”

Apple Valley is a wonderful lifestyle town that attracts people for many reasons. However, the costs of not conserving water are significant, and could fundamentally affect the way of life in Apple Valley. With limited water supply and aging systems, water conservation and vigilant water infrastructure investment and maintenance will remain a priority.

Ranchos provides a variety of conservation programs to residents, including Cash for Grass, which provides cash to customers who replace grass lawns with drought resistant plants.

Apple Valley Ranchos Water Company is also hosting the Second Annual Spring Conservation Fair on Saturday, April 27th between 10 AM and 2 PM at Lions Park, Outer Highway 18 North Apple Valley. Entrance to the event is no cost to the public and there will be plenty of activities for most ages. For more information, visit avrwater.com or contact Norma Armenta by phone (760) 240-8329 or email narmenta@avrwater.com.

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