The Idyllwild Water District’s Consolidation Committee held another meeting Tuesday evening, Aug. 28. Committee Chair Peter Szabadi told the attendees that he planned to encourage his fellow directors to engage the community in future efforts about greater water-district cooperation. In his opinion, this process needs to originate within the community rather than from a district.

As Director David Hunt has said at several IWD meetings, a consolidation committee, which the IWD board has created, appears to residents of the other two water districts — Fern Valley and Pine Cove — to be an effort to take them over.

Committee member Sue Nash agreed with the sentiment to revive a citizen-advisory committee.

Attending as a community member and officially as a water director was Jim Rees, director at FVWD. He thought the efforts to improve watershed management could be productive and was unsure of the benefits of consolidation. “Bigger is not always better, but the review of watershed is important,” he shared with the committee.

Among the community participants was Trudy Levy, who has recently organized a citizens group — the San Jacinto Watershed Watchdogs. She suggested this group might be the magnet to attract greater community interest in furthering work to benefit all the districts.

Its mission statement says, “The position of greatest strength for our community to survive will be for our three water districts to work together. We are asking our water districts to work together to come up with a plan to Save Our Watershed.”

The group would like to see a Hill advisory committee serve “… our communities’ common interests by making recommendations to the constituent boards to create joint cooperative projects and to examine money saving opportunities.”

Much of the public comment at the meeting was offered from Pine Cove residents Nancy Borchers and Jeff Smith. Both expressed their lack of trust in the IWD board, and enumerated many past projects and activities, which they believe were efforts that would have harmed the Pine Cove community, even if unintended or accidental.

For example, they referred to the property that IWD acquired in August 2016. Pine Cove residents challenged the board about the purpose for the parcels in December 2016. The Pine Cove residents felt the property would be used to monitor water quality after IWD pumped its wastewater into Foster Lake.

Then-IWD President John Cook responded, “The parcels were acquired to gain hydrologic data for Lily Creek.”

“We are able to stand up to bullies,” Borchers stated. “We don’t want to see it again.” She later urged the board to use some of its cash to drill new wells.

Szabadi opened the meeting describing his research into the history of formal cooperation among the three districts in the past 25 years. He described a grand-jury report from 1994 that alleged nearly $400,000 in savings could be gained if the three districts were one; but a subsequent study by the district found the savings to be substantially less.

He also mentioned the joint powers agency, the San Jacinto Mountains Water Study Agency, but this expired at the end of 2013. And IWD’s former General Manager Tom Lovejoy prepared several reports of his own, without involving either of the other districts.

Szabadi noted that the three districts are able to informally cooperate and wished to find a way to create a formal mechanism for greater cooperation, such as agreeing to the same emergency water (drought) status or funding joint projects.


  1. One should first ask themselves, why does IWD want to consolidate? Is it out of the goodness of their hearts or would it bring some advantage to the customers in Pine Cove or Fern Valley! The answer to all of the above is a resounding, no. Consolidation will be of an advantage to only one small group of individuals, the IWD and their board. Everybody else would be footing their bills for years of poor management, their past director couldn’t even come up with the state required license to operate a water plant, and more importantly the million dollar plus improvements that they now must make to clarify their water so that they can get their own customers to even drink the stuff. It is the latter point which is what I believe is the compulsive motivation behind their desire to consolidate. First by consolidating they gain a larger income base to which they can spread the cost of these upgrades across. This reduces the cost to their own customers and those who live in the areas presently covered by the other two water districts will be saddled with helping to pay for the mistakes made by others in a district to which they had no relationship. Second, and of greater importance, by consolidating they gain access to additional sources of water that they can use to dilute their water source reducing the clarity problem thus either eliminating or reducing the upgrades that they are presently being forced to plan for. For the others on the hill who are in the other water districts not involved be forewarned that if it happens to us it can happen to you as well. The water district in Pine Cove has done an excellent job for many years keeping both the water quantity and quality high. They have installed fire hydrants across the community and more importantly they understand Pine Cove. They know that we are not a tourist area like Idyllwild is. We are a bedroom community with families and retirees. We have a gas station and a sundry store. IWD as an organization cannot understand our needs on the same level as our local people do. They deal with restaurants and other businesses that use more water in one day than most of us use in a year. In closing I’d like use a quote that is often tossed around more as a joke with little consideration given to it, but I ask that you indulge me and really think about it. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”