At its Dec. 14 Special Meeting, the Idyllwild Water District Board also received a report from former General Manager Tom Lovejoy, who has been consulting for the district in recent years.
Lovejoy described his work and recommendations on several projects, including the recycled water facility, replacement of pipelines and rehabilitation of the horizontal wells above Foster Lake.
The discussion of the proposed recycled water project captivated and surprised his audience. Lovejoy described its success as a “pipedream.” He said he has tried to discuss its merits and the unlikelihood of achieving the desired results with board members for several years.
“Over the past few months, I’ve been deeply disappointed, but recent days encourage me and I’m feeling much better today,” he began.
In Lovejoy’s opinion, the proposed recycling project, which was initiated nearly eight years ago, is not cost-effective for the district.
“There is insufficient demand [for the produced irrigation water],” he stated. “It wasn’t feasible during my tenure and the only difference is we’re eligible for a grant.”
One of his primary objections is the lack of analysis for the plant’s product and its costs. Lovejoy offered his estimates and stressed he had encouraged former General Manager Tom Lynch to authorize a formal review. “I never got straight answers,” he lamented.
In the vicinity of Idyllwild Pines, where IWD would store the recycled water, he identified five potential users — Idyllwild Arts, Idyllwild Pines Camp (although they have wells), Royal Pines, the Boy Scouts’ Camp Emerson and Riverside County Park. But collectively, based on current consumption, these customers would use barely 10 percent of the water produced.
Lovejoy estimated that project costs would approach $4 million, twice the district’s preliminary and current estimate, for which the grant and loan was justified. He thinks the district might have actual costs of nearly $3 million
Overall the cost to produce the recycled water would be about 50 cents per cubic foot, but its sales value would be limited to less than 6 cents per cubic foot. District customers would be subsidizing the facility for years, he stated.
“It makes no sense. It’s a pipedream,” he asserted. “Every time I met with the general manager I told him he was living in a dream world.”
Even changing several assumptions, Lovejoy claimed the overall results were not different.
“My recommendation is don’t spend any more money until you decide it’s cost effective,” he concluded.
He also confirmed that the state has told the district that the recycled water could not be stored in Foster Lake.
“It’s not prudent and not possible to re-charge Foster Lake,” Lovejoy told the board.
In his opinion, IWD could invest less money searching for and drilling for new wells to more successfully augment the district’s water supply.
Lovejoy did recommend continuing with the pipeline replacement project and rehabilitating the horizontal wells.