City Reduced to One Water Well Over Holiday Weekend

South Pasadena’s Public Works Department acted quickly over the Labor Day weekend to replace a water pump motor that failed, threatening the flow of water to the vast majority of the city’s 6,500 water users.

Public Works Director Ted Gerber said the Sept. 4 failure of the motor serving Pump 3 at the city’s groundwater well at Wilson Reservoir in San Gabriel appears to have been triggered by the heat. Reports vary, but most say the temperature peaked during the noon-hour that day at about 110 degrees.

The city was able to replace the potable water supply with a purchase from the Metropolitan Water District. Using a 50 hp pump originally slated for another project, the city’s contractor, General Pump Supply, replaced the malfunctioning unit. GPS and the Public Works staff are now assessing the device and, once repaired, it will serve as a back up.

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“Any interruption to the MWD system would have put the city into an emergency condition,” according to a staff report filed for a special city council meeting held Sept. 7, “hence the need to immediately bring Wilson Pump 3 back online.”

Pump 3, the largest of the cities three pumps, can handle up to 1,900 gallons per minute (gpm), or about a billion gallons per year. That’s a significant share of the city’s annual supply, which during 2020-21 came to 3,846 acre-feet, or about 1.25 billion gallons.

During the special meeting, the city council authorized a $100,000 transfer between funds to pay for the repair and water, and to give the city manager authorization to sign relevant documents. The staff report did not provide a breakout of the costs.

The city has three active wells: Nos. 3 and 4 at Wilson, and No. 2 at Graves Reservoir. In response to a question from Council Member Evelyn Zneimer, Gerber said only one well was operating over the holiday weekend. Graves 2, with a pumping capacity of 700 gpm, was offline as it was awaiting a permit that came through only this week and is now being restarted. Pump 4 at Wilson, with a capacity of 1,100 gpm, was also only recently restored to service.


Ben Tansey
Ben Tansey is a journalist and author. He grew up in the South Bay and is a graduate of Evergreen State College. He worked in Washington State as a reporter in a rural timber community and for many years as an editor for a Western electric energy policy publication based in Seattle.