The new year brought one barely noticeable change to the Hill. Officially, the San Jacinto Mountain Area Water Study Agency terminated. It passed quietly and without fanfare, a contrast with its notoriety and presence during its infancy in the 1980s and more recently in the early 2000s.
The Agency, as it was initially called, was created June 1, 1976. The three presidents and board secretaries of the local water districts — Fern Valley, Idyllwild and Pine Cove — signed the document establishing the joint powers agency.
The Agency was commissioned to study additional sources of water and conditions of water quality for the domestic and commercial needs of the greater Idyllwild area. When the study was finished, the agency was to develop an implementation plan of its recommendations.
The agreement adamantly prohibited the agency from implementing the recommendations unless the agreement was modified with the approval of all three districts, which occurred at the end of 1981.
That December, the districts authorized the Agency to construct and operate a sanitation sewerage facility. Its costs were to be provided from state and federal grants and revenue bonds.
The purpose of the sewerage facility was to mitigate the surface or groundwater quality degradation, which was the result of nonfunctioning or inadequate individual underground waste and wastewater disposal systems.
In May 1983, the districts amended the agreement to extend the Agency’s life through Dec. 31, 2013.
Eventually, the Agency withdrew its support for the wastewater treatment facility. Funding became a problem and the Environmental Protection Agency requested reimbursement for its funds to do the study. The EPA was finally repaid in 2007. IWD constructed a wastewater treatment facility on its own within a portion of its district.
In 2003, the Agency received a $200,000 grant from the state Department of Water Resources to study available water resources and to recommend the priority of facility improvements and management practices to meet future water demand on the Hill. The study was completed in May 2005.
Besides water supply, the study examined options that might reduce projected demand. These included water conservation programs and pricing systems that encouraged FVWD and PCWD to implement a rebate program for low-flow toilets or high-efficiency washing machines, and for IWD to consider increasing its rebate. These recommendations were adopted and have been successful.
Also, the Agency’s consultants recommended the water agencies review their rate structures. In particularly dry periods, water emergency stages 2 and 3 might impose higher water prices to reduce unnecessary demand.
But the study’s recommendations were not unanimously endorsed. IWD opposed a recommendation for expanding the FVWD storage capacity, which the IWD board revoked later that year.
After the study, there were some efforts to conduct joint projects, but the Agency gradually faded and its last formal meeting occurred March 3, 2010. In 2009, in one of its last major actions, “Water” was dropped from the name.