Trinidad acts on coming water crisis

TRICKLE DOWN Levels in Luffenholtz Creek, Trinidad’s water source, are dropping. Submitted photo

Jack Durham
Mad River Union

TRINIDAD – The seaside village of Trinidad is considering building more water storage tanks, replacing leaky pipes and finding alternative water sources in response to the drought.

The city’s Water Committee is so concerned about the potential of running out of water that it’s even investigating what it would take to buy water and truck it in.

“All of us are aware the crisis is coming,” said Water Committee member Dwight Miller.

Drought declared

Normal rainfall for the year, as measured by the National Weather Service at Woodley Island in Eureka, is 39.47 inches. But since Oct. 1, when the weather year started, there has been only 24.36 inches of rain. The previous year was also well below average, with only 29.66 inches.

On July 14 the Water Committee sent out a drought notice to its residents.

“Trinidad draws about 2 million gallons of surface water each month from Luffenholtz Creek and processes it for about 323 water customers,” stated a press release from the committee. “Surface water flow of the creek has been steadily decreasing since June.”

“This year’s drought is steadily approaching the peak severity of the last one,” stated Richard Clompus, Water Committee and Trinidad City Council member “And unfortunately, we don’t have another water source for the city at this time.”

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According to the committee, residents are being asked to voluntary reduce their water usage. If flows in Luffenholtz Creek are further reduced, then the city may have to enforce mandatory restrictions on water use.

“We have always lived within our means when it comes to water in the greater Trinidad area. But as the conditions change, so must we change our behavior and attitude towards water,” stated Trinidad Mayor  Steve Ladwig.

Fixing leaks

The Water Committee held a Zoom meeting on July 14 and discussed various ways to adapt to the drought, which some fear may be become the new normal due to climate change.

One obvious step that the committee unanimously agreed upon was fixing leaks in the water system, which dates back to the 1970s and is nearly 50 years old.

According to a detailed report prepared by Clompus, the city’s water system has about 40,700 feet of water pipes, most of them made of asbestos cement. 

“This type of pipe was commonly used in mid-20th century water distribution systems because of its lightweight, low coefficient of friction and resistance to corrosion,” states the report. “However, after 50 years of service, it can become brittle and prone to leaks.”

Of all the water that’s taken from the creek, treated and then fed into the system every month, on average about 562,960 gallons, or 26.6 percent, is lost in leaks. The water never even makes it to the tap.

One option is to conduct leak testing and prioritize the biggest leaks. A long-term option is to follow the lead of the McKinleyville Community Services District, which has a plan to slowly replace all of its pipes over a period of decades.

Water storage

Water Committee member Chero Kelly prepared a detailed report on increasing water storage.

The city has two 150,000-gallon  redwood water storage tanks on the east side of Westhaven Drive near Lark Lane.

Citing a 2008 report from Winzler & Kelly,  the report recommends  the construction of a 500,000-gallon steel water tank to provide additional water for emergencies.

Trucking Water

Water Committee member Dave Grover is investigating what it would take to truck water to the city. Grover was only able to get water delivery estimates from a couple of companies. The cost ranged from $250 to $350, with the biggest truck hauling 6,400 gallons. It wasn’t clear whether the delivery cost included the cost of the water.

Grover said he plans to gather more information on the trucking option.

Fifth District Supervisor Steve Madrone said that there may be legal issues with trucking in water. Taking water from one governmental jurisdiction to another would require approval of the Humboldt County Local Agency Formation Commission. However, in an emergency, those rules may not apply.

“During an emergency, all sorts of things can happen,” Madrone said.

Mill Creek water

Water Committee member Bryce Kenny prepared a report on obtaining water from Mill Creek. The city has water rights to the creek just north of the city limits on Frontage Road on the east side of U.S. Highway 101.

The city’s water right to the creek is for emergency use. The city is investigating what it would take to draw water from the creek and truck it to its water treatment plant.

The city may be able to partially or fully fund the various projects with grant funds.

Additional information is available at



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