Stage 3 water emergency is imminent depending upon how much rain and snow arrives this weekend, according to Idyllwild Water General Manager Tom Lynch.
“We are in Stage 2. However, we meet the criterial level for Stage 3,” Lynch reported to the IWD directors. “We are evaluating day-to-day.”

Two important criteria for declaring Stage 3 have been met. The groundwater levels for the Foster Lake wells recently fell to 50 feet and the downtown wells are below the 20-foot depth criterion.

“We’ll try to hold off declaration of Stage 3 until we see what the next storm does,” Lynch told the Board.

While fresh precipitation will not be immediately salutary because of the time it will take to percolate from the surface to the wells, it will be a sign that well levels will improve. Even the multiple inches of rain, Sunday and Monday have had minimal effect on Foster Lake’s level.

“The rain has done little to impact the condition at the Lake,” he said. “There’s a large puddle which continually evaporates in the warmer weather.”

Director Mike Freitas encouraged Lynch to move on a declaration soon since immediate rainfall will still take months before any positive effect is apparent.

However, Lynch agreed that a decision would likely be soon and expects the issue to be on the agenda for the March meeting.

The drought and lower well levels are also costing the agency money. Not only are revenues falling as customers strive to conserve water, but expenses increase because it requires more electricity to pump the deeper wells.

In addition to nature’s help from precipitation, Lynch told the Board that two recent projects — refurbishing the Oakwood well and re-opening the horizontal and vertical wells above Foster Lake — are awaiting the State’s approval to be incorporated into IWD’s distribution system.

“I’m hoping with these we’ll restore the water table near the lake,” he added.

J.P. Crumrine can be reached at [email protected].