Issue 3 | September 30, 2019
Mojave Water Agency's Operations Department helped restore Trona's water system in July after two massive earthquakes caused havoc in the Ridgecrest area. Pictured from left: Mike Simpson, Robert McCall II, Curtis Croteau, Fred Murphy III, Chris Pattison, Hunter Lent, and Doug Kerns.
MWA provides aid to shaken community
A new normal

The sun was low in the sky when Mojave Water Agency Superintendent of Operations Mike Simpson unknowingly stepped into the office of a top Searles Domestic Water Company administrator. Simpson and his crew of three were seeking direction, having just arrived in Trona on July 10 following a call from the Department of Water Resources requesting assistance in restoring water to an unnerved community.

After assessing its own water system — checking for any possible damage to pipelines, wells, and monitoring sites — the Agency had assembled a team to provide aid to a community struck by two of the largest earthquakes the state had seen in nearly a decade — the biggest measuring 7.1 on the Richter scale.

“I immediately asked what we could do,” said Simpson whose team was eager to get working as efficiently as possible on a water system that had sustained significant damage just days earlier.

But before instructions could be fully given, Simpson found himself bolting for the door. The ground began to tremble beneath his feet, fixtures swung from side to side, but his counterpart seemed to hardly flinch at what had become a familiar occurrence.

Simpson was in the middle of an aftershock, one of many microseisms he would learn to work through over the course of the next few days. According to a Los Angeles Times report, more than 80,000 aftershocks were recorded July 4-23. 

“I ran out of the office as quick as I could and I looked back and they were just shaking their head as if this is the norm,” Simpson said. “I thought to myself, ‘How could someone work through this?’

“I told them, ‘I’m just going to wait out front here for the crew leader and follow them out.’”

Which is exactly what Simpson did.

There outside he stood, surrounded by cracked brick walls, split tiles, and raised asphalt, quickly realizing what was in store for him and his team that included Hunter Lent, Curtis Croteau, and Robert McCall II.

The team had only left two staff members from the Operations Department behind to keep an eye on things at home — Doug Kerns and Fred Murphy III — whose work allowed the Agency the opportunity to send staff to the far reaches of the desert. And though no problems would arise, the team in Trona knew they could be called back to the Victor Valley at a moment’s notice should anything happen at the Agency.

Over the course of the next three days and under an illusion of normalcy, the Agency’s relief team worked 12- to 18-hour days in less than ideal working conditions. This included daytime temperatures exceeding 100 degrees, with the early morning and late evening hours providing only limited relief. Overbooked hotels and restaurants would also complicate the trip. And the threat of the area being hit with another large earthquake loomed large. 

But all of this was not unexpected, especially following such a shaky welcoming. 
Leave with four, come home with four

Safety was a top concern. The team was instructed to be hyperaware of their surroundings, including paying attention to electrical lines and railroad tracks. But perhaps, there was nothing more worrisome than working next to a high-pressured gas main just feet away at the first worksite.

“We (were) in a situation where it could be dangerous,” Simpson said, “so all of us needed to take care of each other, and watch each other, and work as safely as we could.”

One by one, they swiftly identified and fixed leaks. However, the dangers of working under uncertain conditions was never far from thought.

With the ground rumbling throughout the day from a seemingly endless series of aftershocks, it was difficult for the crew to assess if there was something more nefarious happening or if it was just another earthquake.

“There are all these things running through your mind in that kind of situation because there’s so much going on everywhere,” said Simpson, who made sure the team was scrupulous in their safety precautions. “We left with four guys and we wanted to make sure we’re coming home with four guys.”
Fueled by adrenaline and beef jerky

After an exhaustive first day in the field, the team was in desperate need of a hotel room.

Consumed with the emergency situation at hand, no one had thought to book a hotel room until their day was over at nearly 10 p.m.
With many outside organizations and agencies in town providing assistance — not to mention the numerous media members covering the earthquakes’ aftermath — trying to secure a hotel room became more of a question than a guarantee.

“We had no room. Every hotel we called was booked,” Simpson said.

After reaching out to nearly every hotel in the region, the group finally discovered a Hampton Inn with a pair of newly available rooms after a recent cancellation.

Simpson told the receptionist, “Ma’am, we are at your mercy here. I’ll take one room or whatever you got.”

With a bit of luck, the crew had found a place to sleep. But before turning in for the night, they needed to stop for food. Up until that point, the four men had relied on a healthy supply of granola bars, beef jerky, and water bottles to get them through the day.

With many restaurants temporarily shuttered, late-night options were limited. Simpson, Lent, Croteau, and McCall II turned to one of the only diners open — Denny’s. 

“I was still wound up on adrenaline,” Simpson said. “I could not sleep until 1:30 in the morning.”

Beginning their first day at 5 a.m., Agency operations staff would not settle into their hotel until around midnight. After catching some much-needed sleep, they would meet in the hotel lobby at 5:45 a.m. the next morning, each ready to start anew.
Scorching heat and endless leaks

The dog days of summer were unkind to Agency staff. Temperatures flirted with 110 degrees each day, and heat radiated from the pipelines and ground below.

“It was scorching,” Simpson said. “Thankfully we had a canopy, but we were drinking water nonstop.”

Shirts soaked in sweat and perspiration seething from the brow, staff had to be conservative in their movements to avoid heat stroke.

But the need to be quick was paramount in restoring water to a community in a state of emergency.

“Just point us in the right direction, give us parts, give us locations and we will handle it from here,” Simpson said to local water officials, recognizing the importance of working self-sufficiently while the water officials dealt with a myriad of other issues.

But their work would prove to be arduous to say the least, repairing 14-inch steel mains, excavating earth riddled with boulders, and chasing leaks where the source was unknown. The problems were incessant.

On the third day, the crew received news of its last assignment — a leak that would be fixed in about 45 minutes.

“(The crew) was always willing to go the extra mile and didn’t complain once,” Simpson said. “They were great to work with and they understood what was at stake.

“I’m really proud of my team, including those who stayed back and monitored the Agency’s system. It was nice to know we made an impact in people’s lives. It’s a great feeling.”

Stretching 444 miles, the California Aqueduct delivers water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to San Joaquin Valley and Southern California — including to the High Desert! The aqueduct is the primary feature of the State Water Project, and moves millions of acre-feet of water throughout the state each year.
Cox reappointed to Lahontan Water Board
Mojave Water Agency Board Member Kimberly Cox has been reappointed to the Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board. She was reappointed by former Governor Jerry Brown in November 2018 and recently confirmed by the Senate.

Cox said the reappointment comes at a critical time in water.

“There are many challenges facing water in California. If there was ever a time for the desert region to have a voice in water management, it is now,” Cox said. “I am pleased to be able to serve on the Board to bring greater understanding to the challenges desert communities face.”

The Lahontan Board, Region Six is one of nine regional water quality boards in the state that operates under the State Water Resources Control Board. The state board is responsible for protecting water quality by setting statewide standards, issuing waste discharge requirements, determining compliance, and taking enforcement actions within the regional boundaries based on watersheds.

Region Six encompasses 12 counties including portions of San Bernardino, Modoc, Lassen, Sierra, Nevada, Placer, El Dorado, Alpine, Mono, Inyo, Kern and northeast Los Angeles.

Cox was first appointed by Brown in 2013 and has been continuously reappointed by the former Governor. She has served as a member of the Mojave Water Agency Board since 2003 holding positions as President and Vice President.

She currently serves as the Helendale Community Services District General Manager, a position she has held since 2007, and is a member of the Local Agency Formation Commission for San Bernardino County.

Her experience also includes service as a senior management analyst for the City of Victorville Public Works Department, and as a water resources specialist for the City of Hesperia Water Department.

Cox earned a Master of Public Administration degree in water resources management from California State University, San Bernardino, and a Doctorate in Public Administration from California Baptist University.
MWA sets theme for water conference, kicks
off school competitions
With schools fresh off summer break, Mojave Water Agency (MWA) has announced the theme for its flagship water summit in February, which will also be reflected in its two highly anticipated student competitions: Curiosity Quest Problem Solvers and the Agency's annual essay contest.

In recognition of issues facing the water sector that require ingenuity, innovation, and vision to overcome, this year's theme asks students to "Solve Old Problems with New Technology" — a call to action that will be emphasized to students throughout the year.

"We believe students are capable of much more than most adults tend to give them credit for," Water Conservation and Forecast Manager Nicholas Schneider said. "As we move forward with our school contests, the problems we present are going to require students to utilize their critical thinking skills."

During the first week of October, a set number of teams will be selected via a lottery system to participate in Curiosity Quest Problem Solvers — a team-based competition done in conjunction with PBS' educational program "Curiosity Quest." Selected teams will congregate at the Agency for two filming sessions where they will be introduced to a water-related problem and given the tools needed to solve it.

In years past, topics have included creating a model water-efficient community, and how to reuse a drop of water.

"It's amazing to see the students in action, all working together to figure out solutions to complicated issues," Schneider said. "We're very excited to see what they come up with this year."

With MWA offering $3,000 to the winning school and $1,000 each to the two runners up, it’s fair to say more than school pride will be on the line. A short segment featuring this year's participants will be aired on PBS.

Following Curiosity Quest Problem Solvers, the Agency will release a writing prompt for its essay contest on Oct. 21. Once published, students will have approximately a month to submit essays, along with a short introduction video of themselves for a chance to win a $3,000 scholarship.

The top three essay finalists will be paired with community mentors who will help the students transform their essays into verbal presentations, which will be given in front of a panel of judges to determine this year's winner. The two runners up will each receive $1,000 scholarships.

"This is a tremendous opportunity for students to gain and sharpen skills they may not have an opportunity to use on a regular basis," Schneider said. "Paring the finalists with well-respected community leaders helps instill the confidence they'll need to speak in front of an audience in an unfamiliar setting."

The winner of the essay contest will be asked to give their presentation during the Agency's annual Innovators High Desert Water Summit on Feb. 14 at High Desert Church in Victorville.

If interested in participating in this year's student competitions or for a full list of deadline dates, contact Public Information Specialist Bryan Kawasaki at or 760-946-7001.
MWA introduces mobile app for
water summit registration
For the first time, Mojave Water Agency will be utilizing a mobile app for its annual Innovators High Desert Water Summit in February.

Whova — an event app that will give attendees access to presentation PowerPoints, presenter bios, breakout session information, and much more — will be required for registration to this year's water summit.

The app can be downloaded on any mobile device, and offers an offline mode for students without access to cellphones.

Those interested in attending the water summit will need to download the app, create a profile, and register for the event using the promo code " Innovators ."

For more information about Whova, contact Public Information Specialist Bryan Kawasaki at or 760-946-7001.
Workers install an 820-kilowatt, hydroelectric turbine generator at Mojave Water Agency's Deep Creek Pressure Reducing Facility. The new hydroelectric system has brought the Agency close to attaining a net neutral status in its energy consumption.
With newly completed hydroelectric system, Mojave Water Agency energy consumption near net neutral
APPLE VALLEY — A newly completed hydroelectric system has brought Mojave Water Agency (MWA) close to attaining a net neutral status in its energy consumption — a byproduct that will save the Agency millions of dollars over the next 30 years and provide numerous environmental benefits.

The $4.3 million, clean-energy system is designed to take advantage of water being delivered from the California Aqueduct to the groundwater basin in the Victor Valley area by converting existing pressure into electrical energy.

This process is done through a hydroelectric turbine that was installed at the Agency's Deep Creek Pressure Reducing Facility. Unlike solar, the new hydroelectric system is not restricted to daytime production and allows for greater operational flexibility.

MWA Board President Carl Coleman lauded the project's success and pointed to it as a prime example of the Agency's role as a steward of the environment.

"We are proud to say this project will not only save the Agency millions in the long run, but will do so by generating renewable energy," Coleman said. "We place a great emphasis on the health of the environment when venturing into new projects, or in this case, modifying an existing system and making it better.

"This project is not only great for the Agency, but the entire community."

The central component of the project is an 820-kilowatt, hydroelectric turbine generator that can process up to 12,000 acre-feet of water (nearly 4 billion gallons) per year at a maximum flow rate of 20 cubic-feet per second. Using the existing pressure and available flow within the pipeline, the hydroelectric turbine controls the flow of water while producing electricity and offsetting MWA operating costs. The power is sent to California Edison's (SCE) power grid, which is then credited to the Agency's other SCE accounts.

Over the course of the last year, MWA consumed more than 6.7 million kilowatt-hours of electrical power. At full capacity, the hydroelectric turbine can produce 6.5 million kilowatt-hours of power.

This is the Agency's first hydroelectric turbine generator connected to the SCE system.

Housed inside a 32-foot-by-40-foot building, the hydroelectric turbine produces nearly as much electrical energy when measured in kilowatt-hours as a 9- to 15-acre solar panel farm over the course of a year.

Additionally, the project will offset 4,540 metric tons of carbon dioxide that would have normally been supplied by non-renewable electricity, which is equivalent to greenhouse gas emissions from 972 passenger vehicles.

Capitalizing on existing pressure and flow of water when recharging the aquifer, the hydroelectric project signals a new era of efficiency for MWA in its role in ensuring a sustainable water supply for the region. It also qualifies for California's Renewable Portfolio Standard as an eligible project to help the state reach its goal of 50-percent renewable energy by 2030.

The hydroelectric turbine is located next to MWA's Operations Facility off Deep Creek Road in Apple Valley, the hub for the Agency's largest groundwater recharge facility.

MWA replenishes the local groundwater supply with State Water Project (SWP) water, which is transported from the California Aqueduct through a series of pipelines to the Deep Creek recharge site where it is released into nearby groundwater recharge areas to percolate into the underground aquifer. The water is later recovered, pumped, and distributed by retail water purveyors to serve local communities.

"The Agency would like to thank everyone involved in this project, including Kiewit Infrastructure, NLine Energy, Canyon Industries, and SCE," Coleman said. "They are a huge reason this project has been successfully completed."
Be on the lookout for the following events over the next few months:
TAC Meetings
• When: 10 a.m. to noon Oct. 21; Dec. 19
• Where: Mojave Water Agency, 13846 Conference Center Drive, Apple Valley

Today in Water
• When: 8:30 to 10 a.m. Nov. 5
• Where: Mojave Water Agency, 13846 Conference Center Drive, Apple Valley

High Desert Opportunity
• When: 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Oct. 24
• Where: San Bernardino County Fairgrounds, 14800 Seventh St., Victorville

Barstow Water-Wise Festival
• When: 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Oct. 19
• Where: Barstow Community College, 2700 Barstow Rd., Barstow
Informative events like Today in Water, pictured above, can be viewed on Mojave Water Agency's Facebook page.
Catch us live on Facebook!
Sometimes our events are just too good to see once! That's why Mojave Water Agency has been utilizing Facebook Live to broadcast many of our informative programs. Make sure to follow us on Facebook and check out future and past broadcasts that will allow you to interact with staff and attend events all from the comfort of your home. Also, be sure to check us out on Twitter!