Burdened with aging water pipes and a costly new well that hardly works, city officials have decided to end an old feud and ask the Pico Water District for help in improving the city's water system.
After twice threatening to take steps to merge with the district during the last decade, the city has agreed to leave the district alone and pay it for the use of two wells.
By tapping into the two wells, city officials hope to increase water pressure in the northern part of Pico Rivera, where some residents complain that they cannot run more than one tap at once.
Mayor John Chavez said the city can save about $900,000 by signing an agreement with the district by the end of August. This district is a public agency that operates six wells in the heart of Pico Rivera. The city is responsible for water service elsewhere in Pico Rivera.
Many of the municipal waterlines that crisscross the city are old and undersized. Some of the pipes were installed more than half a century ago when the primary users were fruit and vegetable growers. The system has failed to keep pace with the growing city, Chavez said.
Voters approved the sale of $6 million in bonds in 1986 to improve the municipal system. Most of the bond money was to be used to build a second well in north Pico Rivera and to construct a series of larger lines to move water from municipal wells in the south to neighborhoods in the north.
More than a year ago, the city started work on the new well, spending about $130,000 on it.
But, it was only after the well was finished--and the money spent--that planners realized that it did not solve the problem. It only produced 500 gallons per minute, 2,000 gallons less than expected, Chavez said.
"It was money down the well," he said.
Chavez said the water pressure problems persist.
"It's ridiculous," said Flora Jimenez, who lives near San Gabriel Parkway. Sometimes the water pressure is so bad, she said, that her family often cannot use more than one faucet at a time.
"When someone takes a shower, they have to yell, 'I'm going in, so please don't turn on any faucets,' "she said.
The city and the water district had been at odds for several years and the new round of trouble exacerbated the dispute. In 1988, Chavez said, the city proposed combining its Water Department with the Pico Water District.
The feud heated up and the city realized it could not merge with the water district without a lengthy legal battle and approval of the voters.
As a result, the city formed a committee to offer a compromise plan to the district.
"We both felt there was a better way of solving this," said Hal Maupin, the general manager of the Pico Water District. "We started hammering away at a plan."
A rough draft of the plan is expected to be completed by the end of August. The fee the city will be expected to pay the water district for the use of the two wells is being negotiated.
Chavez said of the agreement: "It's been quite an effort to get it accomplished."