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Aromas Water District improves system to celebrate 50 years of service

Register Pajaronian ARTICLE: 12/18/2009

Bonnie Mahler, Retired Board Member
Bonnie Mahler, Retired Board Member

Bonny Mahler knows a thing or two about water delivery in Aromas. Mahler, who serves on the board of directors of the Aromas Water District, was on hand Thursday as the agency celebrated its 50th birthday and the successful first year of operation of its latest improvement, a treatment plant that removes iron and manganese from the water.

She has served several years on the district's board, but her family ties to the water supply business go back a lot further.

Around 1900, her great-grandfather, George Robbins, started selling a few of his neighbors water from the spring on his Rose Avenue property. Robbins charged 50 cents a month for all the water his customers could use.

"My great-grandmother went door to door, collecting the bill," Mahler said.

By the time Mahler's father, Kenneth Marshall, took over the family business in the 1950s, the price had risen to $3 a month and some of the water was coming from a well, but the delivery system "was a mess," Mahler said.

"It was good water, but we'd be out half the day and we'd have to fill the bathtub to have water the other half," she said.

So in 1959 Marshall sold his well and an acre of land to the fledgling Aromas Water District.

Back then there were 150 connections. In 2009, there are 800, serving 2,700 people in Monterey and San Benito counties.

In 2006, the district borrowed $1 million to upgrade the system, including replacement of two aging 214,000-gallon redwood water tanks and construction of the $400,000 mineral removal plant.

District general manager Vicki Morris said the water met health standards before, but the minerals discolored the water at times, ruining more than one load of customer laundry with rusty stains.

"Not a week would go by without a customer complaint," Morris said. "But I haven't had one complaint since the plant came online... it's a huge milestone."

Mahler said the district's water is good, if a bit more expensive than in her father's day. Her monthly bill runs about $40.

"But we do have water all day," she said with a chuckle.


Posted: 12/18/2009