One year later: Mountain community still faces water woes - 8 News NOW

One year later: Mountain community still faces water woes

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LAS VEGAS -- One year ago, a lightning strike lit on Mount Charleston sparked a forest fire that eventually blackened nearly 30,000 acres of the mountain.

The fire wiped out the only water source for a small mountain community near Pahrump. That community is now faced with $3 million in loans to restore access to fresh water.

The fire may be out, but the people who live in Trout Canyon are still struggling. Imagine not having running water to do dishes, a load of laundry or even flush the toilet. To restore water service could cost millions and there is little aid available to help the families of Trout Canyon.

When the flames swept over the mountain last year, firefighters stationed themselves in David Mallory's yard. Now, one year later, he's left looking over a barren mountainside. The wildfire stripped Trout Canyon of grass and trees that would prevent runoff from pouring down the mountain. Shortly after evacuees were allowed to come back home, the skies opened up.

"It just started raining really hard and you hear it. You couldn't see the water yet, the water wasn't here, but you hear it coming," Mallory said. "The noise was incredible and you could tell something bad was going to happen."

The flooding proved catastrophic to the community. Rains washed away a more than two-mile pipe connecting more than 40 plots of land to a fresh water source inside the mountain.

"Now, we can't buy a drop of rain," Mallory said.

Now, many families are forced to bring water up the mountain every day from Pahrump. Mallory stores his water in an 800-gallon tank. He can't drink any of the water without boiling it.

"You can't let your tank get very low. You got to try and make sure it's topped off."

Other Trout Canyon families count on limited access to a private well. Greg Jameson pulls up several times a week to get water, shower and do laundry. Jameson also happens to be on the Trout Canyon water board which is now faced with a tough financial decision -- build a new pipe or build a community well. The option to build a new pipe is more popular, but expensive.

"They're talking in the numbers of about $3 million and that's just a guesstimate," Jameson said.

Trout Canyon would need to take out a government loan to start construction on a new water pipe and Jameson is concerned it's more than the community can handle.

"There's only 44 lot owners up here. So it would be like a small town of 44 people, so we wouldn't want to get too big of a loan on us," he said.

Jameson says building a well will cost about $45,000 and an existing small pipe system would connect the well water to various mountain homes.

"We would save on money, costs that way, if you hit water," Jameson said.

But there are no guarantees they'll drill and find water. Also, the $45,000 doesn't include the costs to purchase ground water rights for all of the 44 plots of mountain land.

"Either way, it's going to be a spendy situation, but you cannot live without water," Jameson said.

Without the green views and no water, some have decided to abandon the mountain lifestyle, while others tough it out.

"We'll stick it out and see how tough we can really be," Mallory said.

The lack of water also puts the community at risk if there is another fire. They want the county to fill a 5,000 gallon tank with water that could be used to fight a wildfire. The tank would allow firefighting helicopters to scoop water and extinguish flames quickly.

"It's coming back to the same season, fire season is here and we don't have any water. We don't have any fire hydrants, we don't have anything that's under pressure," Mallory said.

Currently, there is a tank filled with water at the bottom of the mountain near Highway 160 and Carpenter Canyon Road. Residents say that tank is too far away.

8 News NOW has learned the community is eligible for at least $500,000 in federal rural development money from the United States Department of Agriculture. Eventually, they could receive more than $2 million in grants to rebuild the pipeline. However, there is a catch. The community must take out a loan to shoulder at least 25 percent of the total cost which will be in the millions.

In the best case scenario, the USDA says construction on a new water source won't even begin until the spring of 2015.



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