The Idyllwild Water District is preparing to issue its last “will serve” letter until the current Stage 2 water emergency is over.

During the April 16 meeting, General Manager Tom Lynch told the Board of Directors that Idyllwild Arts Academy has requested a “will serve” letter for construction of the proposed William M. Lowman Concert Hall.

The Idyllwild Arts Foundation successfully completed a $6.3-million-campaign to fund the project by its Dec. 31 deadline. The hall will accommodate about 300 seats within its spacious 8,100 square feet. It submitted a water service request in January and February this year.

Riverside County requires the owner of proposed new construction to have a letter from the local water district indicating there is sufficient water to supply the building whether it is a residence, an apartment or a commercial structure.

While the Concert Hall’s exact water demand is still tentative, Lynch estimates it will be between four and five equivalent dwelling units. Combined with letters issued this fall, IWD will be at its limit of five, Lynch said.

In reviewing the IAF request, Lynch noted that IWD will need to update how it calculates the water and sewer demand for new construction projects.

“Staff has consulted with certified engineers and fire officials to help determine the impacts to the way the district accounts for water demand,” he said. “Primarily, the district’s consultants have advised that the fire suppression or fire sprinkler system should be taken into consideration for a more accurate EDU count.”

In his letter to IWD, John Newman, director of business operations for Idyllwild Arts, acknowledged the school’s concern about the existing water supply and stated that in “… efforts to reduce our water consumption on campus, we anticipate further reduction in water EDUs as older buildings are repurposed.”

With help of IWD’s consultants, Lynch plans to bring a new formula for calculating water and sewer demand from new building construction to the board at a future meeting.
Lynch then recommended the district issue the “will serve” letter to the school with the condition that the final fire sprinkler plan be submitted to IWD before the county issues building permits, and the directors agreed.

He also is developing ideas for issuing more “will serve” letters if requestors contribute to expanding the district’s water supply or sewer resources.

“We will also be evaluating ways to expand our capacity to serve new construction, which may mean equitable financial contributions to build new infrastructure to meet the design demands of water service,” he told the board. This may include changes in the district’s fees and fee structure.

In other business, no one spoke at the public hearing on the annual standby fee resolution. The fee is $30 per acre for water and sewer and has not changed for many years. Each year, the fee generates about $21,000 for the water program and $8,000 for the sewer program.

Water revenue for March was the lowest monthly collection this fiscal year, said Financial Officer Hosny Shouman. Despite the drop in water revenue, total revenue for the year has been $800,000 and IWD’s net income is $145,000 through March, although water fee collections are less than expenses.

“But it does look as though we are getting the water savings we wanted,” noted Director John Cook.

IWD is in a Stage 2 water emergency and March water production fell 1.1 million gallons from 2013 to a total of 5.2 million gallons. This is the lowest production in March since 2010.
For the first three months of 2014, IWD water production has been 16.8 million gallons, which is 3.6 million or 19 percent less than the January to March period in 2013. But it is still about a million gallons more than the 2011 and 2012 first quarters.