In a March 22 letter to the Idyllwild Water District, the California Water Resource Control Board granted its approval of the “Idyllwild Recycled Water Project Facilities Report.” This is the first step in the district’s quest for funding for a recycled water facility.

The letter also included suggestions for additional information, which IWD should submit with its funding request. These would include a list of existing and future recycled water users and a draft mandatory use ordinance or agreements for use of recycled water.

Eventually, the district will have to grapple with the question of whether future new water users might be required to use recycled water for irrigation or toilets.

This approval does authorize the district to begin receiving reimbursement for a previously-approved $75,000 planning grant.

Other portions of the project are also moving forwarding, according to General Manager Terry Lyons. Tom Dodson and Associates, hired in March to complete the environmental analyses, is working quickly and should have completed analyses within two months.

In other district business, the board approved negotiating a new propane contract with Ballard Gas. Lyons will complete the negotiations this month.

The board is reviewing employee health benefit packages. They are comparing current costs with alternative sources. But the review is more comprehensive than just health benefits. District holidays will also be addressed in the process.

Lyons told the board that there is no clear historical record that supports approval for the current 17 district holidays. The board, at President Allan Morphett’s initiative, recommended tabling this specific issue and incorporating it into the overall benefit review.

“We looking at all aspects of benefits packages, but aren’t in a position for a definite decision now,” Morphett said. “We want to be as transparent as possible.”

Director John Cook readily agreed with Morphett.

He stressed the district’s financial limitations of increasing costs and stable or slightly declining revenues.

“There are different ways to increase the bottom line,” Cook said. “Some things employees want and some we want.”

Nearly all of the current employees attended the meeting and agreed with the board that a comprehensive review and balancing of expectations would be mutually beneficial.

In his water report, Lyons told the board that Strawberry Creek flow has been considerably less than in previous years. But diversions from the Creek have helped maintain Foster Lake at full capacity.

While downtown and Foster Lake well levels are about the same as the January levels, groundwater levels of the district’s other wells (such as the Nature Center) are beginning to fall, he added.

March water production was nearly 9 percent less than February and 15 percent less than December.