The Idyllwild Water District board set a public hearing on the proposed sewer rate increase for Sept. 10. This will be a busy end of summer for the board since the public hearing on the water program increase will be Aug. 20, only three weeks earlier.

During discussion of the date for the sewer rate public hearing, directors Mike Frietas and John Cook expressed some worry that the increase would not be sufficient over the next decade.

But General Manager Tom Lynch responded, “You could raise it in the future or possibly lower it, too. I’m happy to bring it back on an annual basis for your review.”

IWD will consider a 50-percent increase for sewer rates. Its sewer system and wastewater plant were built in 1971 and have been in use since 1972. Much of pipeline has reached its normal life expectancy and replacement is needed in several locations, said Lynch.

This proposal would raise the current monthly rate by $12.75, from $25.50 to $38.25. The sewer revenue, exclusive of property tax assessments assigned to the sewer program, is estimated to reach $360,000 in 2014-15 and would grow by $180,000 to nearly $540,000 annually with the proposed increase.

Lynch is proposing a $2.2 million sewer capital program over the next five years. The 2014-15 portion would be about $530,000 and the final $300,000 in 2018-19. Even with the additional revenue, IWD will still have to use reserve funds to pay the full cost of the improvements, Lynch told the board at the July 9 workshop.

A possible increase for standby fees may be proposed later this year, but Lynch plans more investigation of that initiative before it goes before the board.

Preliminary financial results are positive for both the water and sewer programs, according to Chief Financial Officer Hosny Shouman. The water program ended the year with a net surplus of about $168,000 and the sewer program had a surplus of about $37,000. However, both estimates are before depreciation and health-care benefits for retirees have been deducted.

Southern California Edison’s analysis of the use and efficiency of IWD’s pumps and pumping plan has been completed. As the staff reviews it, implementing some changes may generate future savings, Lynch said.

“Over the next several months, we will be testing changes in our operational procedures, for example, pumping in off-peak hours. This may entail modifying certain well equipment and how we use it,” he told the board.

When asked about the IWD’s water situation, Lynch replied, “We’re real close [to Stage 3] … If it’s dry through August and high temperatures continue, we might be there. The well levels are holding the same position as last month.”

He did mention that Idyllwild Fire Department said it would be testing its equipment later this month, but were cooperating with the district by using greywater for the exercise.

Construction of the Tollgate water tank has been completed and IWD has begun filling it, Lynch reported. A state public health inspection is scheduled for July 23.

Although IWD remains precariously in Stage 2, June production was 8.1 million gallons, nearly 600,000 less than June 2013. This is the seventh consecutive month that the comparison to the previous year’s month has been less.

For the first half of 2014, IWD has produced 39.5 million gallons of water, which is 6.1 million (13.4 percent) less than the first six months of 2013.