“Water consumption is down. People here are environmentally sensitive,” General Manager Tom Lynch last week told John Cook and Warren Monroe, the directors who serve as members of the Rules and Regulations Committee of the Idyllwild Water District.
However, as water consumption declines, so do the district’s revenues, lamented the directors and particularly Chief Finance Officer Hosny Shouman.
But water consumption is dependent upon many variables, even the weather and the periods being compared. For example, IWD customers’ consumption declined slightly more than 700,000 gallons in April compared to April 2014. However, over the first four months of the year (January through April), IWD consumption increased 2.5 percent or about 570,000 gallons compared to the same period in 2014. Total consumption during 2014 was nearly 85 million gallons, 2 million gallons less than total consumption in 2013.
The State Water Resources Control Board relies on 2013 consumption as the baseline to compare current usage. In April 2013, IWD’s consumption was nearly 6.9 million gallons or 16.5 percent more than this April.
A May poll by the Public Policy Institute of California reported that 39 percent of statewide respondents and 36 percent of the respondents living in the Inland Empire consider the drought as the most important issue facing the state. Further, 60 percent of the state do not believe the people in their part of California are doing enough to respond to the drought. In the Inland area, 11 percent think their neighbors are doing too much and a third of respondents thought the right amount is being done. Except for the Central Valley, the 52-percent portion of Inland respondents who felt their area was not doing enough was the second-lowest percentage in the state.
Yet, both directors stressed that conservation and its accompanying revenue reduction will likely require some rate increases. In April, revenue from the sale of water was $13,800 less than the expected collections. Shouman said the same result occurred in May; but in February, when consumption was about a million gallons more than in 2013, revenues were about $16,600 greater than Shouman’s projection.
The falling revenues is why the committee is reviewing IWD’s overall water and emergency policies, including the rate structure. One consideration being studied is charging customers for all water use. Currently, IWD includes the first 250 cubic feet (1,870 gallons) in the base cost. For any usage more than that, the customer pays a per-gallon charge.
During the remainder of the meeting, the committee discussed the draft water policy ordinance to replace the current ordinance, No. 62. For example, the committee will clarify that the five will-serve letters that can be issued during a Stage 2 emergency are the limit for the entire length of the stage, whether the district moves to Stage 3 or not, and also not for just a calendar year or each 12 months of Stage 2.
Another proposed change is clarifying that during either stage 2 or 3, the board will not issue any partial forgiveness of water usage.
Cook also discussed making the criteria for entering the water emergency stages clear and compelling. “The triggers are vague and need to be more precise,” he recommended. Monroe recommended adding a criterion that compares the district’s water production to any reduction in storage as a result of less water.
Also that increases in water rates for the higher levels must be based on the increased costs to produce the water under these exigent conditions.
Lynch concurred relating that as the current drought has continued, the groundwater levels of the district’s wells have fallen. Consequently, the electric costs to pump the water from lower depths and for longer periods are growing.
Regarding the possible use of penalties, Cook noticed that “… our customers are responding to conservation without cost nudges.”
Other issues that will be discussed further include using water for construction during emergency stages 2 and 3, and specifically how to protect the village Christmas tree, if potable water is unavailable for landscaping.