THE OASIS OF MARA
The earliest settlers of Twentynine Palms were Native Americans who lived around the Oasis of Mara. By the 1870’s, early American miners inspired by the Gold Rush traveled to California and settled around the Oasis, followed by cattlemen in the 1880’s who were drawn to the grasslands in the area. The Oasis provided refuge from the harsh surrounding desert environment and continued to attract settlers throughout the 1900’s.
RESPONDING TO A GROWING NEED
To meet growing demand, private developers created and maintained small water distribution companies, and in 1938 the first public water system was created. More public water agencies formed over the years, and finally in 1954, Twentynine Palms residents voted to combine the existing public utility agencies to form the Twentynine Palms County Water District. Members of the Chamber of Commerce known as the “water committee” spearheaded this community effort, electing the district’s first governing Board of Directors: John Wuerth, John Bagley, William Hatch Jr., John Lyon and Joseph Wasserburger.
In 1955, the District adopted 3 more private water companies, acquiring over 200,000 gallons of water. Prior to this, the community had virtually no storage system, putting the water supply at the risk in the case of emergencies. From 1957 to 1969, the District focused its attention on water storage reservoirs.
MAINTAINING A SAFE WATER SUPPLY
A ground water study conducted by the Department of Water Resources in 1983 yielded harrowing results, resulting in the development of the District Master Plan, which addressed key issues and highlighted the need for major infrastructure improvements. The District was facing major problems: a badly deteriorating water pipeline system and unacceptably high fluoride levels. By 1984, The California State Health Department demanded the District submit a timeline for implementations of the improvements listed in the master plan.
With the implementation timeline submitted, funding from the Department of Water Resources and the Environmental Protection Agency allowed the District to make major infrastructure improvements. Over the next 20 years, more than 100,000 feet of pipe-line were replaced, multiple storage reservoirs were constructed, and a $1.7 million fluoride water treatment plant was built. These upgrades brought security and reliability to the Twentynine Palms water supply.
In 2005, the District earned another EPA grant to assist in the construction of two more 1,000,000-gallon storage reservoirs and 43,000 more feet of pipeline, providing new water storage and enhancing water reliability throughout the District. The combination of these improvements gave the District the ability to accept and deliver water from the fluoride removal plant to the entire area, ensuring adequate water supplies far into the future.