Water-recycling facility may be in Idyllwild’s future

Although Tom Lynch, Idyllwild Water District general manager, said, “We continue to be on the precipice of Stage 3 [water emergency],” a decision to go to the tightest water conservation measures remains in the future.

But the state appears to have agreed to help IWD manage future drought periods. Lynch told IWD directors last week that he has been notified that the Department of Water Resources has tentatively approved a $2-million funding package to aid IWD’s construction of a water-recycling facility.

Nearly three-quarters of the money will be either forgiven or in the form of a grant with the balance, $500,000, at a 1-percent loan. The official award has not been received yet.

In search of other funding, Lynch attending the Riverside County Board of Supervisors’ March 10 public hearing for prospective Community Building Grants. Only a few applicants, including Lynch, spoke to the board who will make the decision on how to allocate more than $10 million next month. The county received 106 applications in the category in which IWD is competing.

IWD requested $68,000 for two projects. The smaller was for security fencing around two of IWD’s storage tanks.

The larger request for $50,000 would help rehabilitate wells above Foster Lake. These wells were damaged during the removal of dead trees due to the bark beetle infestation more than 10 years ago. Lynch showed the board photographs of an empty Foster Lake and explained how re-opening these wells will help restore this reservoir. He also stressed to the board that Idyllwild qualifies as a "disadvantaged community.”

Third District Supervisor Chuck Washington, attending his first board meeting, requested Lynch to contact his staff to arrange for another meeting about these funding requests.

Although a couple of late winter storms passed over the mountains, Lynch reported that the resulting precipitation provided little help for IWD. The groundwater levels for IWD’s wells near Foster Lake and downtown are at the levels to trigger a decision to move to Stage 3.

“We’re still watching and evaluating our static well levels day-to-day,” he told the board. Nevertheless, IWD has been able to maintain its water storage “consistent with this time of year,” Lynch said.

The state did review and approve the water quality for the Oakwood well, which adds it to IWD’s supply system. Its production rate is between 20 and 25 gallons per minute, according to Lynch.

Work to repair IWD’s sewer effluent line will begin shortly. The board awarded a $417,000 contract to EL-CO contractors, who submitted the lowest bid of five competitors for the contract. IWD has budgeted $500,000 for the project.

Both the water and sewer programs’ revenues exceeded their costs during February and for the year to date, according to Chief Financial Officer Hosny Shouman. The water program, thanks to significant water sales during the month, yielded a net $43,000 and the sewer program had a net gain of $21,000.

Although Shouman had projected an $11,600 net gain for February, the actual surplus was due to an unexpected surge in water sales during the month. Actual use exceeded his forecast by about 164,000 gallons, resulting in nearly $16,700 in additional revenues for the month.

Residential customers’ use was up about 10 percent, but commercial use represented nearly 90 percent of the revenue windfall.

Lynch and Board President Jim Billman attributed the surge to visitation to Idyllwild over the President’s Day three-day weekend, which had very pleasant weather on the Hill.

Total production was about 1 million gallons greater than February 2014, although it was 63,000 gallons less than January. For the first two months of 2015, IWD production is up about 8 percent compared to an 18 percent decrease last year compared to 2013.