The Idyllwild Water District Board of Directors approved the next step in their quest for a water recycling facility. The Title 22 Engineering Report has been submitted to the California Department of Public Health and the draft Facility Planning report for the State Water Resources Control Board will be completed this week, according to Anders Wistrom, one of IWD’s two consultants.

Once the state has reviewed the Facility Planning Report, IWD expects approval to begin submitting reimbursements for the planning costs which have been accumulating. Currently they are about $75,000.

The board approved $40,000 to proceed with the detailed Clean Water State Revolving Fund application. Since federal funding is involved, more will be expected from environmental analyses and greater breadth including potential historic resource data and endangered species status.

Ascending Engineering of South Carolina, headed by Anuj Saha, will prepare these documents. Saha participated in the meeting via teleconference and Wistrom was able to physically attend.

“The availability of recycled water for landscape irrigation provides a nearly 100 percent drought proof water supply — recycled water will always be available, even in drought years when groundwater for potable uses may be restricted,” Wistrom told the board.

Wistrom’s draft report identifies three project alternatives, which differ only on the length and pipeline route from the wastewater treatment plant to a water storage tank. Basic common assumptions include the fact that recycled water will be available for irrigation, the four principal customers are Idyllwild Arts campus, Idyllwild Pines Camp, the Royal Pines Trailer Park, and individuals with green tanks, and that overall demand will approach 17.5 acre-feet (5.7 million gallons).

This water volume is equivalent to one or two wells in a drought, noted Director Warren Monroe.

All three alternatives have the pipeline beginning at IWD wastewater treatment facility. The first alternative crosses Strawberry Creek near Idyllwild Arts and constructs the main line along Idyllbrook Drive. It terminates at an existing water tank at Idyllwild Pines Camp after recrossing Strawberry Creek.

The second alternative follows Tollgate Road to Delano Drive. It crosses over Strawberry Creek at the Delano Bridge. From there it passes along the north side of Strawberry Creek to the existing Idyllwild Pines tank.

The third alternative assumes the recycled water project would be built in two phases. Thus the main line terminates at the Royal Pines Trailer Park.

The estimated cost for recycled water will be about $6.50 per thousand cubic feet, which is about $2 less than tier 3 potable water costs.

Wistrom recommended the district designate alternative two as its preferred alternative. He felt its construction was simpler and less costly. The preliminary cost estimate is about $1.2 million and the cost difference between the alternatives is primarily the length of the pipeline route, Wistrom said.

“The current construction costs have been dropping and by this time next year the cost of the material and labor will be lower,” General Manager Terry Lyons wrote in an email. The board plans to seek grant funding and state loan funds to finance the project. Lyons said it may be a year or longer before the state grants final approval for the project and its construction.

“I am trying to use existing roadway as much as possible,” Wistrom told the board.

The board also agreed to table a request for forgiveness of half of a customer water bill amount. Director Jim Billman recommended further investigation before the board made a decision.

The request was made to forgive nearly $4,800 of the customer’s December bill. A sprinkler system apparently malfunctioned and the customer used more than 100,000 cubic feet (more than 700,000 gallons) of water. The bill total was $9,677 of which the customer agreed to pay $4,860 of the bill.

“I didn’t feel I could grant the partial forgiveness,” said Lyons. “The leak went on for about a week.” The customer appealed to the board, which is investigating the problem further.

IWD Resolution 451, enacted October 1993, authorizes the district’s General Manager to forgive a portion of bill. A customer may only receive this grant once. The criteria read, “The water loss was not the result of the customer’s reasonable control.” This includes maintenance of equipment to shut flow off if the premise was empty for a period of time.

Since the same customer had incurred other significant problems, including usage of more than 10,000 cubic feet in September, Lyons did not feel the problem was outside the customer’s control.

In other water business, Auditor Controller Jim Ludy reported the district’s budget through January was slightly below his projections, but still revenues are $33,300 more than costs. Water sales are about equal with his projections. He noted commercial sales were slightly ahead while residential sales had declined slightly.

District customers still are trying to conserve water. Requests for rebates for water-efficient clothes washers and toilets continued in January. Nearly 40 requests have been reimbursed this fiscal year, for a total cost of $6,250.

January usage was about 10 percent less than a year ago. For the fiscal year (since July 1), usage is about 1.6 million gallons (3 percent) less than the prior year.