Idyllwild Water District remains in Stage 2 water emergency, General Manager Tom Lynch told the directors during the April 15 meeting. But IWD is hovering very close to its trigger points for moving to Stage 3 status.
While the groundwater level of the downtown wells is at the criterion of 20-foot depth, the depth of the Foster Lake wells remain slightly above 50 feet, the trigger.
“We’re really just teetering on the edge,” Lynch said.
He also advised the board of Gov. Jerry Brown’s recent executive order mandating significant water reductions for urban water districts. The State Water Resources Control Board was to implement regulations (completed Saturday after the meeting) and Lynch also was awaiting their public distribution to assess the immediacy of moving to Stage 3.
“The details are still coming,” Lynch said. “But some areas of the state are in much more dire straits than us.”
Lynch is in the midst of trying to increase water supply from existing wells without drilling new wells. He announced that the Oakwood well is ready to contribute to IWD’s distribution system.
While IWD is awaiting the state’s approval to add the horizontal wells above Foster Lake to its distribution system, Lynch is addressing improvements for other IWD wells.
Well no. 8 will be refurbished for less than $12,000 and its production will range from 10 to 15 gallons per minute, Lynch told the board. He also is planning to rehabilitate well no. 11 and increase the use of well no. 16.
Besides water supply, Lynch said replacing the sewer effluent pipeline begins next month. The initial project schedule anticipates completion by the middle of August, but he felt the contractor would likely finish the work sooner.
In other water business, the board set May 20 as a public hearing date for its annual standby fees for both water and sewer. They will remain at $30 per acre on unimproved properties. These funds are restricted to deferred maintenance and capital facilities.
The board also agreed to rescind its Resolution 451, adopted in 1993. The resolution granted the general manager authority to review and possibly approve partial forgiveness of water bills under certain circumstances. The issue arose when a current customer requested forgiveness of their January bill.
Lynch denied the request for several reasons, including that IWD has not granted any partial forgiveness during any Stage 2 since 2007 and has never provided partial forgiveness in a Stage 3.
“It would be a gift of public funds and an unfair burden on our customers to bear the cost of what should be a customer’s responsibility,” he told the board.
Since SWRCB will be issuing regulations to implement the governor’s executive order, Lynch recommended rescinding this resolution, which affects water stages 1, 2 and 3, thus eliminating the confusion and ambiguity of possible bill forgiveness during water-emergency conditions. He plans to comprehensively review this policy, as well as all policies and rules regarding water emergencies and their multiple stages.
“As we assess the impacts to our district as the result of the governor’s executive order, we will be redrafting our ordinances and resolutions to be compatible with the state’s guidelines and the unique conditions of our area,” he said later in the week. “This will include re-evaluation of the various trigger points for each stage.”
Since entering Stage 2, IWD has not issued a will-serve letter for more than a year. Director John Cook asked Lynch to look into how IWD might begin to accommodate new development as the economy begins to improve.
He offered an example of one or more property owners drilling a well, giving it to IWD and receiving credit for the water. “What can they do if they can’t get water directly from the district?” Cook asked. He suggested the Rules and Regulations Committee look into the demand for water. “How cautious should the district be, especially if it moves to a Stage 3 condition, and how does production tax the water system?” he asked.
During March, IWD customers used about 5.5 million gallons, about 350,000 gallons more than March 2014. For the first three months of the year, total production has been 18 million gallons, about 7.6 percent more than same period in 2014. But for the past 12 months, production was slightly less than 86.3 million gallons, which was 2 million gallons less than the prior 12 months.