Hesperia’s Water Quality Defies Quantification In Annual Report

Arguably, Hesperia’s premier asset is its water. Lying not too distant from the north-facing foothills of the San Bernardino Mountains and at the headwaters of the Mojave River, Hesperia can lay claim to water that in taste tests over the last 35 years has consistently rated at the top or within the top five best municipal water offerings nationwide.
Nevertheless, references to the city’s water quality in the City of Hesperia’s 2018 Consumer Confidence Report fail to capture the superior nature of the product, dwelling instead on a host of standard measurements applied to municipal drinking water supplies. Not surprisingly, Hesperia’s drinking water met the State of California health standards. It rung no alarms with regard to violations in tests for arsenic, copper coliform bacteria, nitrate, fluoride, hexavalent chromium, lead or nitrates; nor was there any problem with microbiological, chemical, physical and mineral elements.
In 1994, the city subsumed the water department and at present the city’s water division draws its supply from 15 wells, all of which are within the city’s 73.21 square miles falling under the authority of the Mojave Water Agency’s designated Alto Subarea subbasin of the Mojave River Groundwater Basin.
According to the annual report, in 2018, the city-operated Hesperia Water District provided its customers with 13,594 acre-feet, or more than 4.4 billion gallons, of potable water throughout the 94,000-population city, a consumption rate below the per capita average in Southern California.
The originator of the Hesperia Water District was Penn Phillips, the founder of modern Hesperia. Phillips on April 22, 1954, under the auspices of his corporation, the Omart Investment Company, purchased a 36-square mile tract seven miles south of Victorville, representing roughly 90 percent of the entire township of Hesperia, for $1.25 million from the Appleton Land and Water Company and the Lacey Estate, which had owned the land jointly since 1888.
Phillips simultaneously announced his intention to spend $8.25 million through the Hesperia Land Company, a subsidiary of Omart Investment Company, to prepare the property for development, indicating 1,000 acres of the property was to be allocated to industrial development, 8,000 acres for agricultural use and that 5,000 homes would be built along with a two-and-one-half mile-long-and-one-quarter-mile-wide artificial lake, and a resort section. Something of a charlatan, Phillips created the Hesperia Land Development and Hesperia Sales Corporation, which worked to promote his concept of U-Finish Homes, mass-produced housing units that were finished on the outside, leaving the buyer to complete the interior. He secured water rights to support this community through the newly created Mojave Water Agency, of which he was a founding member. Part of Phillips’ formula was to put in the minimal amount of infrastructure to make the homes habitable, bring in a population that creates the basis for a community that includes momentum for establishing some form of a jurisdictional governmental agency, sell all of the parcels acquired, take a profit and move on to another development elsewhere.
Both the roads and the water system Phillips created for the town were of a decidedly low standard. The roads consisted of a mixture of desert sand used as aggregate and bitumen to create a road that was no more than one-and-a-half inches thick. Under the withering sun, the force of flash floods and use, the roads were severely deteriorated in fewer than five years.
Phillips was equally irresponsible in the creation of the town’s water system. Though he started with the tremendous advantage of Hesperia being blessed with a world-class water supply, he squandered that asset in his head-long pursuit of profit. He ushered Hesperia’s pristine and perpetually recharged water supply created by melting snow and overflowing rainwater from the watershed area consisting of the top and northwestern portion of the San Bernardino Mountains contained in the heights at Hesperia’s southeast end into a water system that consisted in large part of pipes cannibalized from a petroleum conveyance operation from depleted oil fields. These substandard pipes compromised the quality of the product provided to Hesperia for domestic use. Over time and after Phillips’ departure, the city expanded to more than 75 square miles served by 589 miles of pipeline. Beginning about 20 years ago, the city began a concerted effort to replace those aging water lines. Some 76 miles of the system yet consists of the original 6-inch and 8-inch steel pipes. Last year, the city replaced 13,581 linear feet, equating to 2.74 miles, of old water pipes. City officials have resolved to replace five miles of the oldest pipeline per year for the next fifteen years. The water is relatively evenly distributed throughout the city into a combined 14 steel storage reservoirs with a total holding capacity of 64.5 million gallons, providing households with adequate pressure.
Mark Gutglueck

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