The heart of the water system serving Cowan Heights and Lemon Heights, an aging two-million gallon reservoir, is being refurbished, refinished, refined and renewed to serve the community for another 40 or 50 years.
The two quarter-million-gallon tanks now gracing the hill above Peacock Hill Drive are temporary. They are holding water for residential customers until the underground reservoir is ready for service.
That underground reservoir was built in the 1950s, when the area was rural and agricultural. As the community grew, demand for water increased, and the small local agencies managing and operating the system had a hard time keeping up. The rural systems of Cowan and Lemon Heights were sold to larger agencies, eventually taken over by Golden State Water Company: Cowan Heights in 1974, Lemon Heights in 1994.
Because the area topography is primarily hills, water is pumped up from a station on Newport Avenue to a series of reservoirs at higher and higher elevations. Water from on high is delivered to homeowner taps via gravity and pressure. The Peacock Reservoir is not the highest, but it is the largest and the one most in need of upgrading.
Golden State originally intended to replace the underground reservoir with a massive aboveground tank. “We said absolutely not,” Bruce Junor, a reservoir neighbor, reports. “We said, 'we’re not going to have a huge tank looming over us. The tank is underground now, it can stay that way.'”
Junor and other Golden State customers “held their ground” until a new Golden State manager came on board and took notice.
Good to go
“We wanted to do this right,” says General Manager Ken Vecchiarelli, “and since we were going to be working up here anyway, we thought we should replace everything. Not just the tanks, but the piping, pumps, and backup generator.” Golden State also installed an automated master control center that monitors water levels, turns on the pumps when needed, and keeps engineers aware of the system’s status at all times. A new radio tower transmits the information 24/7.
Golden State invested some $6.4 million in the Cowan Heights system. The reservoir work, which included crack repair, a new coating and a new roof, was $3.6 million; new piping, $1.6 million.
The new system is expected to be operational in September. The temporary tanks, however, will remain for another 12 months. “We’ll need to inspect the reservoir in a year,” Vecchiarelli explains, “which means we’ll have to drain it again and store the water in those tanks. If everything looks good, we’ll remove the temporary tanks then.”
The next upgrade on the local system may be the tank at the top of the system on Timberline Lane. That one is thought to be about 100 years old.