The directors of the Pine Cove Water District clearly stated that consolidation with the Idyllwild Water District is not a viable path for them any time in the foreseeable future.

The board unanimously adopted Resolution 537 last week, which states the board’s position: “The Pine Cove Water District hereby formally opposes any consolidation with the Idyllwild Water District.”

Members of the IWD consolidation committee attended the PCWD meeting and urged the PCWD board to reconsider the need for the resolution at this time. IWD Director Peter Szabadi stressed that the committee’s purpose was only to study consolidation, merger or other options that foster more cooperation among the Hill water districts.

“My problem with the resolution is it’s premature,” he stated. “We formed the committee to study the possibilities. Our district has not taken a position.”

The committee members were attending the PCWD meeting to ask the directors and Pine Cove residents to participate in the study, and help analyze the options for the entire Hill community.

“It’s just a study, we have no plan to consolidate,” Les Gin, IWD director and committee member, restated. “We just want the different districts to join us for discussion about the future for our kids and grandkids.”

Three Pine Cove residents — Marge Muir, Jeff Smith and Laura Wilson— spoke. Muir supported the idea and Smith castigated IWD, while opposing it.

As the meeting ended, Wilson spoke out to the board, “I hear ‘us or them.’ In reality we are one on the Hill. You’re too focused on what is ours. If we lose that town, we lose our homes, too.”

During the board’s discussion, Director Diana Luther said, “There’s no need to take on other districts’ problems. We do give you mutual aid.”

And Director Vicki Jakubac referred to a recent incident when PCWD staff offered to assist IWD and was told to go away. “We can only look at the past. We didn’t just wake up,” she added.

Director Lou Padula requested a roll call vote on the resolution, and it was adopted without any opposition.

IWD’s water quality has become public concern and Pine Cove residents have been asking PCWD General Manager Jerry Holldber about the PCWD water. He presented a special report to the board about the PCWD water quality, testing results and why the disinfection byproduct problem is not occurring in this district.

First, he noted that nearly 75 percent of the PCWD water supply comes out of the Logan Creek watershed rather than the Strawberry Creek watershed, which IWD and Fern Valley Water District rely upon.

“Why do we have such great water quality?” he began. “It is not an accident. For decades, we have been taking care of the wells and have good methods of water treatment.”

Since PCWD relies exclusively on groundwater, pre-treatment with chlorine is needed less. The measured chlorine residual in the PCWD water is 0.34 parts per million, which is about one-third the amount of chlorine in the IWD water in 2016.

“With groundwater, there is a lot of natural purification. Soil and rock are natural filters. None of the wells are directly influenced by surface water,” Holldber explained.

Chlorine, which is needed to purify water, reacts with natural organic material in the water to form the disinfection byproducts — trihalomethanes and haloacetic acid. The excessive amounts of these constituents are the problem, which IWD has encountered over the past year.

For PCWD, the latest total THM reading was less than 6 micrograms per liter, the maximum contaminant level is 80, and IWD’s recent test results are between 80 and 90 µ/l. The 2016 results were both less than 7 µ/liter.

“That’s why we have good-tasting water,” he said proudly.

In his operations report, Holldber told the board he planned to begin cleaning the highway tanks as the next project. Engineer John Egan agreed that this work should precede the Rocky Point tanks.

Water consumption in July was 3.8 million gallons compared to 4.2 million gallons in July 2017, he reported. Since January, water consumption in PCWD has been 2.4 million gallons (11 percent) less than the same period in 2017. Besides customers conserving water, the theft for cannabis groves has been stopped.

“It’s back down to normal; the lowest in three years,” Holldber reported. “It was way out of ordinary what we were losing.”

Moving in the opposite direction is the increase in the number of full-time residents. PCWD estimates that since February, there are more than 70 new full-time customers.

The principal monitoring well has been at the same level for several months and the groundwater level for some wells is up, he added.

The district also sold more than 200,000 gallons during the Cranston Fire. The price, $25 per 1,000 gallons, “doesn’t’ cover all the electric and other costs,” he added.

The board also conducted a public hearing on the standby fees. Muir and Smith also spoke about those. The fee is $30 per acre for unimproved property and generates about $24,000 annually for the district.