Member Spotlight – January 2018

  • by Emily Allshouse
  • Jan 19, 2018
  • Newsletters

When it was completed in 1924, the Littlerock Dam and Reservoir was the tallest multiple-arch dam in the world.

A Look at the Past, Present and Future of Palmdale Water District

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the Palmdale Water District, a district with a rich history that began even before its official formation in 1918.

From Humble Beginnings to Meeting the Needs of Today

The district’s origins date back to the late 1800s when two private water companies – the Palmdale Irrigation Company and the South Antelope Valley Irrigation Company – began investing in water projects to meet irrigation needs in the community of Palmdale. Those early projects included the construction of a 6.5 mile irrigation ditch and the creation of Harold Reservoir, now known as Palmdale Lake.

During the early 1900s, with the need for more water storage top of mind, the two water companies developed plans for the creation of a public irrigation district that could finance the construction of a dam along Littlerock Creek – the Littlerock Dam & Reservoir. In 1918, the two districts merged and became the Palmdale Irrigation District, with the focus remaining on agricultural customers within the district’s boundaries.

As the district’s population grew significantly throughout the 1950s, its water needs shifted from primarily agricultural needs toward municipal and industry water uses. By 1973, the Palmdale Irrigation District officially became Palmdale Water District to reflect this transformation.

This is the Littlerock Dam and Reservoir today. Construction on a grade-control structure at Rocky Point will begin this summer as the first phase of the Littlerock Sediment Removal Project begins.

After 1973, the district’s needs continued to evolve and PWD worked steadily to update its water system. This included building a new water treatment plant in the late 1980s, then expanding the plant substantially, along with rehabilitating and enlarging Littlerock Dam in the 1990s. The district worked throughout the 2000s to add to its water distribution and storage. The district also upgraded and expanded its water treatment plant in 2009, naming it in honor of long-term board member Leslie O. Carter.

Today, the district’s water system includes more than 414 miles of pipeline, 23 active water wells, 15 booster pumping stations, and 20 water tanks with a total storage capacity of 50 million gallons of water.

“The Palmdale Water District has come a long way from its beginning in 1918 when only 200 people received services,” said Board President Robert E. Alvarado. “With 115,000 people in our service area today, we don’t take our responsibility lightly. We are committed to investing in water projects so that our community’s needs are met.”

A Century of Service

Last summer, the district kicked off a yearlong celebration in honor of 100th anniversary by rolling out a number of special efforts.

In August 2017, the district launched new historical displays to highlight one decade of PWD’s 100-year history each month with a poster at the library and a collection of artifacts and mementos in its lobby. The lobby displays include newspaper clippings, license plates, models, and water-related objects like a gate valve and water valve covers from the 1950s. In order to populate the displays, the district borrowed items from board members, employees and collectors. The following month, PWD also began offering exclusive monthly tours of its water treatment plant and Littlerock Dam and Reservoir, giving customers a chance to see their water up close and personal.

During December 2017, PWD launched a new logo and began working on a video series that will include interviews with current and former board members and staff. In 2018, the district also plans to have a float in a local parade, host customer appreciation days, and host a formal centennial celebration in July.

According to PWD Public Affairs Director Judy Shay, the “Grand Celebration” will be a daytime event for families that will include food, music, activities for kids, and educational booths. The event also will include the creation of a time capsule to be opened in 2118.

“I am really proud to be part of the Palmdale Water District during this momentous occasion,” Alvarado said.

Planning for the Future

As the district looks to the next 100 years, it’s working on two major projects.

“The Littlerock Sediment Removal and the Groundwater Recharge projects are vital to the future of PWD,” said General Manager Dennis LaMoreaux. “Both projects will assist us with meeting the water needs of our growing community and help ensure that we have critical water resources during years of drought.”

The Littlerock Sediment Removal Project will increase the capacity of the Littlerock Dam and Reservoir so that the dam can return to its planned capacity of 3,500 acre feet. Phase one of the project, which will begin in summer 2018, will include the construction of a grade control structure at Rocky Point. Phase two, which includes the removal of 1.2 million cubic yards of sediment, will begin in 2019. Following these phases, the project will continue removing sediment every year. The district estimates that it will take 7 to 12 years in order to remove the sediment and keep pace with continuous silt build up.

The Palmdale Regional Groundwater Recharge and Recovery Project is a groundwater banking program that will blend recycled water with California Aqueduct water and spread it over a 160-acre site, where it will filter down through the ground and join the natural aquifer. The groundwater project includes the construction of a new 80-acre recharge basin on an undeveloped 160-acre site, a two-acre distribution site, 16 recovery wells and 25 miles of pipeline. According to Shay, the district has already constructed test basins and will launch the final design phase of the project in 2018. When completed in 2020, the project is expected to provide PWD with a cost-effective, long-term and reliable water supply solution.

“It is not often that organizations reach their centennial. As we celebrate, I am extremely confident that our next 100 years will be even better as we embark on projects that will ensure we continue to have high-quality water for our future customers,” Alvarado said.

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