The Fern Valley Water District directors were encouraged to join efforts to build greater cooperation and collaboration among the three Hill water districts at the board’s meeting Friday.

Representatives of Idyllwild Water District’s new Committee to Improve Cooperation among the water districts of the Hill and the San Jacinto Watershed Watchdogs attended the meeting. Although a member of the committee, but not an IWD director, Sue Nash urged FVWD “… to keep an open mind when we get a new manager.”

Both she and Trudy Levy, co-founder of the Watershed Watchdogs, asked the FVWD board to consider greater collaboration and cooperation with the Idyllwild and Pine Cove water districts. “We would like to see all work together at the table,” said Levy.

“Even though there are three separate districts, everyone uses resources of Idyllwild Water — the Post Office, the library and others,” Nash noted. “We have to be more community minded.”

“Fern Valley is always in favor of discussion,” responded Director Robert Krieger. “But we won’t let you drag us into the problem.” And Director Jim Rees reminded them that he has attended a meeting.

“No, we want to be honest partners,” Levy replied. “We wouldn’t want Fern Valley or Pine Cove saddled with our problems.”

In other business, General Manager Victor Jimenez discussed the problems that occurred this summer with the activated carbon at the filter plant. These have been resolved and it is fully operational.

The complaints about water from Tank 9 have diminished, he noted, and likely eliminated. It appears that the tank water was not the cause.

District staff went to the homes, investigated and tested the water, and discovered that it was being affected from water in attached hose bibs. This was corrected and the owners acknowledged the improved water quality, Jimenez said proudly.

About one-third of the new hydrants have been installed and work is continuing on meter replacement, too, he reported.

The board asked for further analysis, and a report on the water pressure throughout the district and property owners’ responsibility to install regulators to lower pressure entering homes or structures.

“I’d like a discussion of the use regulation, not just in areas where the pressure is greater than 200 pounds per square inch,” Krieger requested. “We need a complete district policy, including how to keep it at 65 psi.”

With respect to the district’s water production and usage, Jimenez said, “Everything is doing well.”

In both August and September, water production from the district’s wells exceeded 75 percent of the total. In his report, he wrote, “The wells continue to be used heavily because of the lack of surface water, but appear to be responding favorably, although the lack of precipitation is starting to affect them more as time goes on.”

Groundwater level of the wells is declining, but not significantly, he added.

During the July and August billing period, FVWD water production was 7.4 million gallons, which was about 710,000 gallons less than the same period in 2017. Jimenez attributed the lower water use to both conservation, since the district is in Stage 2, and the evacuation due to the Cranston Fire.

For the first eight months of 2018, water production totaled 23.7 million gallons, which was 620,000 less than the January to August period in 2017. Except for last year, this was the most water produced in those eight months since 2013.

After the first quarter of fiscal year 2018-19, the FVWD budget has a deficit of about $107,000. However, at this point of the fiscal year, this result is normal. Riverside County does not disperse property tax revenue to special districts until December. During this period, district reserves are sufficient.

In the first quarter, revenue, primarily from water sales, was $282,000 and expenses were $390,000. But nearly 45 percent of the expenditures was for capital projects, of which about $150,000 was the purchase of the new backhoe.

And Rees has not found a contractor or construction team willing to undertake the district’s desire to expand its conference room space. Consequently, the project will be deferred.