IWD uncertain when new meters may be issued

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The Idyllwild Water District meeting on May 25 was a dominated by the public asking questions about the district’s water status, will-serve letters and hydrants.

In regular business, Chief Finance Officer Hosny Shouman reported that water revenue continued to exceed the prior year’s monthly revenue while water consumption declined compared to a year ago.

Both the district’s water and sewer budget remain positive for the current fiscal year, which ends June 30. The sewer budget had net positive balance in April of about $32,500. The water budget revenues were $6,500 more than expenses, again unfilled positions contributed to the lower than expected costs. But revenue was almost $84,000 in April, which was about $1,500 more than in April 2015.

The district remains in Stage 2 water conservation and Foster Lake is still empty, reported General Manager Tom Lynch. The district declared a Stage 2 Water Shortage Emergency effective September 2013. While a Stage 2 condition continues, the district’s policies prevent the issuance of any new “will-serve” letters, which are needed for new construction.

Initially, Lynch said Stage 2 would continue until Foster Lake was full, but changed to significant water in the lake. He did not address the possible growth in water supply from both a reduction in consumption and more wells and more efficient pumping.

Pine Cove resident Marge Muir, who owns property in IWD, and as a real estate agent, represents clients with property, again asked questions about new water meters and equivalent dwelling units. In recent correspondence between Muir and Lynch, he has referred to EDUs, which are based on faucets, bath, toilets and other water outlets, as a limitation on issuing new meters.

Muir asked when the district began this practice, since EDUs are not mentioned in Ordinance 64, on which Lynch based his comments. If EDUs do affect the size of a meter, she asked if IWD was monitoring local construction on expansion of residences.

Based on her exchanges with the district, she is worried that no new “will-serve” letters will be issued for five or more years. She also expressed concern about applying a stand-by fee to properties without a meter, if no new meters are available until the distant future. The board did not answer at the meeting and is preparing a written response.

Jeff Smith also raised a question about the adequacy of the district’s fire hydrants. After reviewing data from the three local water districts, he was concerned about the adequacy of IWD’s current hydrant system. He noted IWD had fewer large hydrants and the distance between hydrants tended to be greater. But it should be noted that, effective April 1, the ISO organization has raised the Idyllwild Fire Protection District rating from 4 to 2, where 1 is the best. The ISO rating can affect fire insurance policies and indicates the quality of fire protection available to an area.

Water consumption at IWD was 6.3 million gallons in April, which was 540,000 gallons greater than April 2015. For the first four months of 2016, production was 23.5 million gallons, which is 300,000 gallons or 1.3 percent less than the comparable period in 2015. Annual production in 2015 was the lowest in more than a decade and nearly 20 percent less than in 2013.

In response to questions from the public, Lynch did confirm that a hazardous materials incident was identified at the district’s treatment ponds. IWD has reported it to the Forest Service and the area has been cleaned. A more detailed report is being prepared according to Lynch.

“We have some issues there,” said board President Jim Billman.

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