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By Susan Wiggins
Mayor Pro Tempore 

Mojave water history

A Page of History


A desert community such as Mojave must have a reliable water source to survive. An article by my mother Marion Deaver details the history of the water supply for that town.

Those of you who read this column know my complaint that my mother never dated anything, and this article is no exception.

Mojave came into being because of the Southern Pacific Railroad Co. in 1876 when its rails reached the town. The railroad picked the site for water at the bottom of the hill, at the foot of the nearby mountains where the company could maintain its fleet of steam engine helpers to assist their trains up the Tehachapi grade to the summit.

However, the site proved to not be fruitful. The company drilled several wells with little or no water, so they had to look elsewhere – 12 miles northwest of Mojave. The railroad right of way passed through fields of thick wild hay, flowing artesian wells, almost a swamp, they claimed.

The company drilled a well right there on their right of way and laid an eight inch pipe from that well pump to their storage tanks in Mojave.

This water supply was maintained for 40 years until the Monroe family, who were farmers in the area, filed a complaint against Southern Pacific claiming that over-pumping of that well, had caused the wild hay to dry up along with the artesian wells in the area.

A settlement was reached in 1921 when the railroad bought all the water rights in one section of that land. The railroad company sold water to the town of Mojave until the "Mojave Gold Boom" in 1935. The town grew and the railroad company was having trouble keeping up with the demand for water.

In 1938 the railroad officials said they were in the railroad business and not the water business and sold the system to the newly created Mojave Public Utility District. The railroad agreed to supply water to Mojave until the water district could afford to locate other water sources for the town.

During World War II the demand for water for steam power for both Southern Pacific and Santa Fe trains led to the railroad company drilling another well in the Monroe Meadows area and laid an eight inch redwood pipeline from the well to Mojave.

(My parents were out "exploring" just west of Mojave one afternoon and saw a piece of wire poking out of the dirt. They dug up a five foot piece of that old redwood pipe. They donated it to the Kern Antelope Historical Society once they determined what it was.)

When the Navy built the Marine Base in Mojave it tapped the Los Angeles Aqueduct for their water supply. When the Marines pulled out of Mojave they gave their storage tanks to the Mojave Public Utility District.

In 1949 the district purchased 40 acres in the Monroe Meadows adjacent to the railroad company wells. A newer eight inch pipe was built to bring the water to Mojave and into the Navy tanks.

On Sept. 29, 1950 water began to flow to the newly acquired tanks and on that same day Monolith Portland Cement filed a complaint in Bakersfield Superior Court to stop the flow of water to Mojave.

The cement company maintained that the water was in the Tehachapi basin and not Mojave. The cement company won the first round, and every time Mojave moved to another area to drill a well Monolith was there to stop it.

The Mojave water district prevailed and won the next two rounds in court. The railroad switched to diesel power and sold its water system to Mojave.

Through the following years Mojave fought for water, to supply its citizens and a newly built golf course.

Eventually the water district was able to purchase its first 3,000 acre feet of water from the Antelope Valley East Kern Water Agency.

And Mojave residents enjoy water today whenever they turn on their faucets...or flush.


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