Foster Lake remains empty, reported Idyllwild Water District General Manager Tom Lynch. While some rain fell during December, “… most of the puddles are gone and we’re left with mud,” he told the directors at the district’s Jan. 21 meeting. “The recent rain has done little to impact our water condition.”
Groundwater level for the wells, which the lake supplies, has dropped to 50 feet, he also added. This is one criterion that could trigger IWD’s move to a water conservation Stage 3. A decision on whether to move into Stage 3 may be on the horizon, but Lynch feels it may be avoided if the well levels can be raised.
Two possibilities offer him the opportunity to defer this decision. First, more rain this week or possibly in February. Secondly, the efforts to restore the horizontal wells above Foster Lake may be successful.
If the district can accomplish restoration of these wells, more water would then flow into the lake and its level would be independent of precipitation creating flow in Lily Creek, which empties into Foster Lake.
Nine of the wells have passed initial testing, but some contamination remains. Connecting two vertical wells may help the district solve this problem, Lynch said. Testing pumps at these two wells is the next step.
“If all goes well, we hope to have the horizontal wells productive within the next several weeks,” he wrote in an email after the meeting. “The restoration of the horizontal wells can result in rebuilding the aquifer that supplies water to the Foster Lake wells.”
In addition, Lynch told the board that rehabilitation of the Oakwood well has been completed and that state public health is reviewing the water quality tests. With its production estimated to be about 25 gallons per minute, this will be a good addition to the system, he added.
Lynch also added that a grant application has been submitted to the U.S. Department of Agriculture requesting funds to help pay for the expenses of restoring these wells. The funding request for the recycling facility is still with the state Water Resources Board. However, Proposition 1, approved in November, authorized $7.5 billion for state water supply infrastructure projects. The additional funding may benefit projects such as Idyllwild’s, Lynch said.
IWD’s water sales were again less than the budgeted amount as IWD customers continue to conserve water. In December, IWD sold nearly 230,000 fewer gallons than expected, Financial Officer Hosny Shouman reported. However, December expenses were also down and the Water Funds net income was almost $20,000 last month. For the six months, since the beginning of the fiscal year, the net income for the Water Fund is $130,000 despite sales being $56,000 below estimates.
In December, water production was 5.4 million gallons, 720,000 less than the 6.1 million gallons produced in December 2013. For the year, IWD’s total production was 85 million gallons, a decline of 6.9 million gallons from 2013.
In 2014, IWD’s water production was the second lowest level in 10 years. The 82.9 million gallons produced in 2012 was the lowest amount during this period.
Lynch also recommended a financial assistance program for customers. The initial funding would come from a windfall of $200 the district received for its credit card purchases. The money would be available, with a $50 limit per customer, to individuals experiencing severe economic hardship paying their water or sewer bills.
The board was receptive to the idea, but urged Lynch to work with the Idyllwild HELP Center to make the individual determinations of need. Director John Cook suggested adding an option for a voluntary donation to district water bills to fund the program.
Lynch also announced the promotion of two staff members. Bill Rojas is now the water department chief operator and Nick Iliev is replacing Steve Kunkle, who recently retired, as sewer department chief operator.