Water consumption increased significantly in the Fern Valley Water District during the July and August billing period. This year, FVWD customers used about 8.1 million gallons, which was 1.8 million or 30 percent more than during July and August 2015. The end of summer demand was about 2.3 million gallons greater than the May and June usage.

The other two local water districts — Idyllwild and Pine Cove — both experienced greater water consumption this summer, too.

The last billing period in which FVWD customers used that much water was three years ago — July and August 2013 — when 9.5 million gallons were consumed.

The lack of rain and greater demand increased greater reliance on groundwater. During August, about 55 percent of the water came from the district’s wells compared to 43 percent a year ago.

“Tahquitz Creek is shutting down,” said General Manager Victor Jimenez. “We’re relying on wells now as much as last year.”

Board President James Rees asked if the increased consumption was due to the summer temperatures.

“There are a lot of factors. The heat, a lot of outdoor watering,” replied Jimenez

The power outage in July appeared to contribute to the increased watering, he added. The loss of power may have re-set many timers for automatic sprinkler systems.

“We had several bills much higher and upset customers,” he said. “But after discussing the timer issue, they checked and agreed and re-set them again.”

When Director Robert Krieger asked if the staff tested meters to determine the problem and who is responsible, Jimenez replied, “Yes, we work with the people and trouble shoot. One problem took two to five days to resolve, but not two months.”

Jimenez also mentioned that he intended to examine the option of replacing the FVWD customer meters. The manufacturer and pricing will be a couple of issues that will affect his decision and recommendation.

When Board President Jim Rees asked if he might use the same brand of meters that the Idyllwild Water District uses, Jimenez firmly replied, “No.” He noted several differences between the two districts’ meters and also problems that he encountered with the manufacturer of the meters IWD uses while he was at El Monte.

Jimenez reported that the district’s auditors had completed a preliminary audit. He recommended that the board establish an audit committee to meet with the team and hear the results before presenting the final audit to the board.

The members of the new finance committee will be directors Richard Schnetzer, Charles Wix and Krieger. They intend to convene with the audit team prior to the district’s October meeting.