I read the article “Idyllwild Arts plans more growth and less water use” and want to convey my understanding from many years working for the County of San Bernardino on these issues, about the process for obtaining a will-serve letter.
To build anything over 100 sq. ft., one needs to obtain a building permit from the department of building and safety. If that building is going to use water, one must also obtain a will-serve letter from the local water district.
Normally, a building permit cannot be obtained until a supply of water is assured from the local water district in the form of a will-serve letter. If a person is not simply building one building, but is building many as part of a master plan, before the local water agency can issue a will-serve letter for the first building, it must see a copy of the master plan submitted to the county for approval.
In this way, the water agency can determine whether all of the water uses contemplated by the master plan will be able to be served adequately by the water company. The water company would be derelict in its duty and in violation of law if it issued a will-serve letter only for the first of many buildings in a master plan.
To ask for a complete Master Plan is not predetermining whether a will-serve letter will be issued, but is merely gathering all the information needed to make sure that projects are built, but cannot be used because no water is available.
In addition, before approving the master plan the county is required to comply with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and fill out an initial study checklist to see if there are any potential environmental impacts for the project — water supply is one of those potential impacts.
If there are impacts, water supply or otherwise, then they must be mitigated to a level of insignificance before the project can go forward, or the county can determine the economic benefits of the project outweigh its negative environmental impacts.
The master plan and the CEQA document must be available to the water supplier so that they have enough information on which to base their determination that they will be able to supply the water needed by the master plan and who will pay for any additional infrastructure required.
This will all take place at a public meeting. This is the same public process that everyone in a democracy has the privilege of participating in — to ensure that all current and future customers of Idyllwild Water District have an adequate supply of water at an equitable price.