The Idyllwild Association of Realtors has organized a series of educational sessions for its members and affiliates. On March 19, Jack

Water district general managers Jack Hoagland (Idyllwild), Victor Jimenez (Fern Valley) and Jerry Holldber (Pine Cove) spoke to local realtors and affiliates during the first of a series of educational presentations that will award attendees with a Mountain Specialist Certificate. This first class took place at the Idyllwild Association of Realtors’ office on March 12. 
Photo courtesy Idyllwild Association of Realtors

Hoagland, Jerry Holldber and Victor Jimenez, the general managers of the three local water districts, spoke about their districts and answered numerous local water issues questions.

The panel of general managers began the session with a brief description of his district and its history. Holldber was first. Pine Cove Water District was formed in 1956. It is a county water system.

The district encompasses about 6.4 square miles and has no sewer service. All developed lots must have a septic system, Holldber said.

Idyllwild Water District, formed in 1955, also is a county water system under the California water laws, Hoagland said. IWD does provide sewer service, which is primarily along Strawberry Creek, he added.

Fern Valley Water District was a private entity in the 1930s and became a state water district in 1958. One important difference between county systems, such as IWD and PCWD, and a state water district, FVWD, is who are the eligible voters for directors and bonds.

Directors of county water systems are elected by full-time residents registered to vote in the water district. Eligible voters for a state water system are property owners within the water district. They get one vote for each dollar of assessed value for their land.

When asked why there are three water districts on the Hill, Hoagland referred to the history of the area. “A hundred years ago, these communities were separated by many miles and grew up separately.” And in the years before the 1950s, all three were originally created as private water companies, Holldber pointed out.

The realtors asked many questions, including what are the local water sources, what are the chances of running out of water, how does a property owner get a water meter, its cost and basic water rates.

To obtain a water meter in Idyllwild, Hoagland said one must submit a request for a water service availability letter. Meter prices depend upon the size, but installation costs will be affected by proximity to the water main line nearest the property.

Jimenez said the FVWD meter policy is similar to IWD’s.

PCWD does not require a “will serve” letter, Holldber said.  “When you pay, we’ll go set the meter,” he stated.

The districts’ fixed and usage rates were discussed, too. It varies. PCWD and FVWD bill bimonthly and IWD bills monthly. All three have a fixed rate of about $30 monthly and have tiers of consumption where the per-unit cost increases.

IWD and PCWD also have a standby fee for undeveloped property. It is $30 per acre annually. In principle, this helps with the installation and maintenance of district infrastructure, which the lot owner will use, once a meter is installed. FVWD does not assess any standby fee, Jimenez confirmed.

When asked about the possibility of drilling a private well, Hoagland explained that this was between the property owner and the county ordinances. The district has no well restrictions. In PCWD, there are some minor restrictions, Holldber noted.

The districts get their water mostly from ground wells, but Strawberry Creek serves IWD and FVWD. PCWD does not have rights to any surface water and relies on wells. IWD and FVWD have wells and also divert from Strawberry Creek. FVWD also diverts some water from Tahquitz Creek, a tributary to Strawberry Creek.

Also, all three managers felt that their districts had more than sufficient availability of water this year and for the near future.

“We found over the last five years we were able to meet our customers’ demands,” Hoagland said. “The previous board was a little overly cautious. But customers do save water when we ask.”

As an example, IWD’s largest customer, Idyllwild Arts, has been using significantly less water in the past year. When the district asked the school if there was a problem, Hoagland said IA replied that a major conservation program to reduce water needs had been implemented.

“They’re saving money but, unfortunately, it’s not being sent to us,” he lamented.

“We might go to Stage 2 this spring, but we have plenty of water. This would heighten our customers’ awareness [of water usage],” Holldber added.

Another questioner asked about responsibility for water leaks from the main to the meter and from the meter to the house. Essentially the water meter separates the district’s responsibility from the homeowner’s. From the meter to the house or property is the responsibility of the owner, all managers agreed.

Before leaving, Holldber stressed, “Always shut your water off when you leave your house for vacation. If you leave your house unattended, shut the water and service off.”

While winter’s freezing weather is a common cause of broken pipes, leaks can occur at any time. If no one is around to notice it, the water usage is the owner’s responsibility.

Neither FVWD nor PCWD have policies to forgive large water bills. IWD will consider an adjustment, under special circumstances, once every four years, according to Hoagland.

All the districts support citizen efforts to collect rainwater as a form of conservation. FVWD and PCWD have rebate programs for selected water-conservation efforts, such as low-flow toilets.