JOSHUA TREE — Of the roughly 250 miles of pipe conducting water to Joshua Basin Water District’s customers, two-thirds needs to be replaced, according to interim General Manager Mark Ban.
Ban and his fellow government officials said they’re on their way to solving that problem with the groundbreaking for the new capital improvement replacement project Tuesday morning.
“It’s really important we do this work and move forward on projects like this,” said Ban, who recently took over when Curt Sauer retired.
“This is something we need to do year in and year out.”
The $1 million project is financed by a grant and a steep hike in water rates approved by the board of directors last year. Rates will be raised a total of 60 percent through 2020.
Assistant General Manager Susan Greer called the project “Work that’s been deferred for decades to preserve water rates.”
“While doing absolutely nothing, the cost of this replacement project continues to go up each year,” Greer said.
“Thanks to the community of Joshua Tree for supporting this.”
Greer and Ban both said the district is saving money by having the work done by its own workers and equipment instead of getting a contract with an outside company. Joshua Basin has hired a five-man crew, led by Brandon Warner, to focus on the capital replacement project.
Distribution supervisor Jim Corbin praised the crew and the people of Joshua Tree for understanding they had to address their aging water infrastructure.
“It starts by the public voting in a competent and fiscally responsible board of directors who recognize without funds, we can’t fulfill our responsibility to provide safe and affordable drinking water,” Corbin said.
He thanked staff members like Sara Johnson, Autumn Rich, Ann Roman and Randy Mayes for their hard work.
He pointed out Sauer in the audience. “Curt fully understood we had to quit talking about doing infrastructure replacement. Let’s stop talking and start doing.”
The entire United States has an infrastructure problem. The American Society of Civil Engineers issues a report card every four years on the pipes and other structures that keep the country going. In 2017, drinking water infrastructure got a D-minus.
According to the report, many of pipes that bring water to Americans have been in use for almost 100 years.
Ban said Joshua Basin is facing that problem and fixing it on a local level.
The crew will begin by replacing pipes starting on the north side of the highway at Saddleback Road and Juniper Road and ending next March on the south side of the highway at Torres and Sunburst avenues.
The construction crew will work from 7 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekdays except holidays.
Besides replacing 25,000 linear feet of pipe, they’ll install new fire hydrants and valves to make repairs easier.
Once they finish at Saddleback, they’ll move on to the next area, and continue to replace and maintain pipe.
“This is the beginning of a new era at Joshua Basin Water District,” Greer said.