The environmental impacts of a proposal to supply water to this community’s 114 water customers was discussed at a Pioneertown Property Owners Association meeting at the church on Mane Street April 7.
Guest speaker Jim Oravets, San Bernardino County engineering manager, began his presentation by outlining the well-known challenges this community has with its water supply.
There are two, Oravets explained: quality and quantity.
Of eight existing wells, two are unusable, one has very high arsenic and FLUORIDE levels and the remainder exceed the maximum contaminate level for arsenic or uranium.
Additionally, there is an insufficient supply to serve the town. Regulations require that the county provide the maximum day demand with the largest production well out of service.
The maximum capacity of wells here is 28,000 gallons per day, with a required maximum day demand of 35,000 gallons per day. However, wells pump off after two to three hours.
No new water meters have been sold here for a decade. New homes either drill their own wells, which further depletes the scant, poor municipal supply, or purchase hauled water.
The county is required by law to provide water for its residents. Herein lies the challenge — where to lay the pipeline and from where to import the water?
Three options have been explored.
• Run a pipeline up Pioneertown Road and pump in Hi-Desert Water District water;
• Run a pipeline across Skyline Ranch Road and use water from the Reche Basin in Landers; or
• Sink a well in the Pipes Canyon Wildlands Conservancy property.
A fourth option generally considered infeasible is to treat the existing supply with in-home, under-the-counter filtration systems.
Regarding drilling in the Pipes nature preserve, Oravits said, “There were some differences that could not be resolved and the offer was taken off the table.”
Skyline pipe is favored project
The county advocates the Skyline Ranch pipeline and pump station, which staff says entails putting down about three miles of line and would produce a projected 100 gallons per minute of water imported from Landers.
According to Oravets, most comments sent to the county supported this option.
Officials are seeking grant money for the project, which will comply with California Environmental Quality Act requirements. Herein lay a rub with residents vis-à-vis the county.
Oravets figuratively tip-toed through several common questions posed about environmental concerns:
• Will Skyline Ranch Road remain open during pipeline installation?
• Are easements required?
• Will this open up Skyline Ranch area to development?
• Does the project give Hi-Desert Water District 200 gallons per minute to get Pioneertown residents 100 gallons per minute?
• Will the water be drinkable?
• Will Hi-Desert Water District control Pioneertown’s water supply?
The water will be drinkable, Oravits said, eliciting murmurs of approval from the audience.
The county also supports a proposal for recharging State Water Project water into Pipes Wash, a project deemed by some officials as necessary to export water from the Reche Subbasin to supply drinking water to Pioneertown.
“Our basic issue is exportation of water out of Reche Subbasin violates state law,” Marina West, general manager of Bighorn-Desert View Water Agency, said after the meeting.