The directors of the Fern Valley Water District will consider a water-rate increase in April. Board President Robert Krieger and Director Trisha Clark, who compose the Rate Committee, said they will submit a recommendation to the full board to consider next month.

The report from Webb and Associates, a water-engineering firm, has been received and includes several recommendations for adjusting the district’s rate structure, possibly as much as 20 percent in the next year and more in future years.

These were based on the level of future capital-improvement programs, according to Krieger.

Much of FVWD’s pipeline is very old and exceeds the average 50-year life expectancy, which is likely contributing to FVWD’s above-normal, unaccounted-for water loss, Krieger added. In some areas, the pipe was installed before 1958, when the water district was a mutual company.

The loss during the January and February billing period was 14.7 percent, down from 14.9 percent in the November and December period.

Over the past 12 months, the average unaccounted-for water was 18.8 percent.

Documentation to award a pipeline replacement project contract for fiscal year 2015-16 is being drafted, General Manager Steve Erler said.

Plan drawings are being prepared for the replacement of about 3,200 feet of pipeline this summer and fall.

“Webb suggested a stronger replacement program to get the water loss down,” Krieger said. “The water industry standard is 5 percent and in some cases 10 percent.”

The Webb report also included a recommendation to formally establish an operating reserve of about $800,000 to protect future operations in case of an emergency.

“The district’s existing reserve will gradually decline from $1.4 million to $1.2 million next year and will continue to decline through this period [of construction] below the recommendation,” Krieger said.

In response to Director Richard Schnetzer’s question about whether the capital-improvement plan included other projects than just pipeline replacement, Krieger responded, “It’s primarily pipeline. I think we’re in good shape for water treatment and storage. Other improvements might address diversion and perhaps more stringent water-quality requirements in the future.”

If the board approves a water-rate increase, Krieger anticipates a public hearing in June.

Following the recent rains, Erler said the stream flow has “picked up a little.” Strawberry Creek flow remains too low for FVWD to divert any water from that source, but Tahquitz Creek has been flowing at about 70 gallons per minute, he said, sufficient for some diversion.

With stream flow low, the district has relied on its wells for nearly 20 percent of production and much of the other water comes from its storage tanks.

The groundwater level of some FVWD’s wells has responded to the rain. For example, the level of well no. 11 rose 2.66 feet last month, but the level of the observation well fell and is 3.17 feet below the groundwater level in March 2014.

During this billing period (January and February), FVWD customers consumed 4.2 million gallons, which was 13,000 gallons less than the comparable period in 2014.

Although residential consumption increased, FVWD’s multiple connection customers (for example, inns) reduced their consumption 9.5 percent.