Idyllwild Arts (IA) has plans to expand its campus facilities, but no ground will be broken or new project started until late spring 2012. A replacement health center will be the first construction. Then, three faculty residences will follow, according to John Newman, dean of students.

A multi-million dollar concert hall is part of the plan, but IA President Brian Cohen and Newman both said its construction won’t start before 2014. Both feel that the school has been in the lead of water conservation for several years.

“For the past couple of years, concerted efforts have kept our water expenses flat,” said Newman. “We’ve taken our usage down while rates have gone up.” During this period, residential enrollment has grown from 265 to 295. To accommodate the growing student body, Idyllwild Arts has renovated a classroom building, which had originally been a dormitory.

To achieve these savings the school has retrofitted toilets, reduced irrigation use 50 percent and initiated conservation measures, Newman explained. The four proposed facilities will create little environmental demand, he stressed.

Fire codes requiring sprinkler systems and water flow for emergencies are the significant drivers of the future water demand, Newman stated. In fact, he suggested that Idyllwild Water District (IWD) could place or install the 6-inch meter and a bypass around it for emergencies, such as fires.

The school currently has two water tanks with capacity totaling 190,000 gallons, which is available in emergencies such as the 1996 Bee Canyon Fire or the 2006 Toll Fire, which burned seven acres between IWD’s sewer plant and the west end of the campus.

“We are a real line of defense when fire encroaches from that direction,” Newman said. “In that event, every valve is open and gushing, the fire department has full access to our supply. It is not our purpose to deplete the town’s resources.”

Newman called the paper and requested the opportunity to discuss what the school has achieved and plans since no one was contacted to comment on the IWD meeting story in the Aug. 25 issue and no one from the school attended the public meeting to represent its position.