ACWA Leadership on Headwaters Health Driving Long-Term Response to Wildfires

  • by Dave Eggerton
  • Oct 16, 2020
  • Voices on Water

Another year of catastrophic wildfires have wrecked historic damage to our state and its natural resources. We have at least another month before we can expect the arrival of any meaningful precipitation to provide relief. 

The lethal Camp Fire that destroyed most of Paradise two years ago struck late in what used to be a defined wildfire season. We have since discovered that the threat of these disasters has become virtually year-round. Yet the eventual outcome of this tragic event showed the ACWA community at its finest. Even in the midst of one disaster rolling into the next, water agencies can count on one another for help in recovering and rebuilding.

In the aftermath of the Camp Fire, ACWA member agency Paradise Irrigation District’s (PID) home community suffered the loss of 85 lives and more than 18,000 structures, including the homes of employees. Multiple ACWA member agencies responded by dispatching crews and donating equipment to PID, traveling from nearby Northern California water districts and from as far away as Southern California to help PID start restoring water service to its devastated community. 

This is just one among many inspiring examples of water agencies uniting to lend a hand in a sister agency’s recovery efforts. However, a larger challenge remains on a statewide scale. Another round of catastrophic wildfires, unprecedented in scope and intensity with a changing climate, have once again damaged entire watersheds. Ash and other sediment and debris will wash into reservoirs and ultimately add another layer of difficulty in delivering safe and reliable water. We have overcome this difficulty before, and will again. However, what can be done on the ground to lessen this threat, if not eventually overcome it?

An important part of the answer is taking leadership in advocating for and working to implement projects to restore the health of our headwater forests. In that, ACWA and our member agencies are part of the solution. Multiple ACWA members are collaborating with local, state and federal agencies as well as nonprofits and corporations to reduce the fuel-loading in our forests and restore the healthy function and resiliency of these watersheds. It is a massive undertaking that includes mobilizing work crews, applying prescribed fire and utilizing machinery such as masticators to improve the condition of each forest, acre-by-acre. With millions of acres of forests in need of assistance, we are only at the beginning of what must be a sustained, multi-generational effort.

ACWA advocacy stands behind this on-the-ground work. In Sacramento and in our nation’s capital, member-supported engagement is helping secure funding for headwater forest health. For example, ACWA is a member of the California Forest Watershed Alliance. This alliance of diverse interests, including organizations that represent water, environment, local government, timber and agricultural interests is dedicated to finding a solution to California’s forest-health and fire-risk issues.  

Within California, ACWA’s input in the development of the state’s Water Resilience Portfolio emphasized the vital importance of headwaters health to water supply, quality and reliability. And in Washington D.C., our advocacy is constantly keeping headwaters health a top priority in federal funding and regulatory reform. Much of this work is guided through an ACWA Headwaters Workgroup formed through our Federal Affairs Committee and led by Willie Whittlesey, General Manager of Yuba Water Agency and a trained professional forester. 

By now, the increasing severity of California’s wildfires have affected all of us in one way or another, from smoke and its effect on air quality, to more severe impacts with members of the ACWA community losing homes in recent years. 

Six years ago, my family and I were preparing for a potential evacuation order in El Dorado County. I remember standing in my front yard as a building wall of smoke from the King Fire towered above our home, which we easily could have lost had the wind changed direction. One year later, I experienced the Butte Fire as General Manager of Calaveras County Water District (CCWD), which destroyed most of the upper watershed of one of our main water sources and threatened a water treatment plant. I will always remember the incredible dedication of CCWD staff who worked tirelessly to keep the water system in operation and fire flow available to firefighters on the front lines. 

In the larger picture, ACWA’s collaboration toward improving the health of our forested headwaters makes all of us part of the solution. It may be a quieter story of dedication told over years, but it is one all member agencies are helping make happen.

Suggested Resources

15 RESOURCES prev next
Letter to Gov. Newsom on Roadmap to Achieving the Voluntary Agreements

To: Governor Newsom Subject: Roadmap to Achieving the Voluntary Agreements Letter excerpt: As the State continues to overcome a myriad of immediate […]

A Roadmap to Achieving the Voluntary Agreements

“A Roadmap to Achieving the Voluntary Agreements” provides an urgent call to action to re-engage the state on the Voluntary […]

Comment Letter: Draft 2020 Agricultural Water Management Plan Guidebook

Agency:  California Department of Water Resources Subject: Comments on the Public Review Draft of the 2020 AWMP Guidebook Letter excerpt: The […]

Comment Letter: Urban Water Management Plan Guidebook 2020

Agency:  California Department of Water Resources Subject: Urban Water Management Plan Guidebook 2020 – Comment Letter Letter excerpt: The Association […]

Comment Letter: Draft Cost Methodology for Public Water Systems & Domestic Wells

Agency:  State Water Resources Control Board Subject: ACWA and CMUA Comments regarding Draft White Paper Discussion On: Long Term Solutions Cost […]

Toolkit to Help Members Host Virtual Events

Sorry, but only ACWA members have permission to view this content. Member login is required.

Comment Letter: Electronic Annual Reporting

Agency: State Water Resources Control Board Subject: Electronic Annual Reporting – ACWA’s Comments Regarding Proposed 2020 Reporting Year Questions Letter excerpt: […]

Comment Letter: SB 100 Draft Results

To: Interagency Principals of the SB 100 Report Subject: Association of California Water Agencies’ Comments on SB 100 Draft Results Letter […]

Comment Letter: Environmental Laboratory Accreditation Program Third-Party Assessor MOU

Agency: State Water Resources Control Board Subject: Comments – Third-Party Assessor MOU Letter excerpt: The Association of California Water Agencies (ACWA) […]

Webinar: Accessing Utility Rebates for SCADA

Sorry, but only ACWA members have permission to view this content. Member login is required.

2020 Water Professionals Appreciation Week Toolkit

Sorry, but only ACWA members have permission to view this content. Member login is required.

Comment Letter: State Water Resources Control Board Toxicity Provisions 2020

Agency: State Water Resources Control Board Subject: Comment Letter – State Water Resources Control Board Toxicity Provisions 2020 Letter excerpt: The […]

Comment Letter: Identification of Risk Assessment 2.0 Indicators

Agency: State Water Resources Control Board Subject: Comment Letter – Identification of Risk Assessment 2.0 Indicators for Public Water Systems (Safe […]

Comment Letter: Monthly Urban Water Conservation Reporting Regulation

Agency: State Water Resources Control Board Subject: Comment Letter – Adopted Changes to Monthly Urban Water Conservation Reporting Regulation Letter excerpt: The […]

Webinar: Leadership and Transparency in the Water Sector: A Look at GHG Metrics

Sorry, but only ACWA members have permission to view this content. Member login is required.

Suggested News

15 Articles prev next
2020 BUCKBOARD DAYS PARADE GOES VIRTUAL

ROWLAND HEIGHTS – In lieu of the Covid-19 related cancellation of the 48th annual Buckboard Days Parade, Rowland Water District […]

IRWD Co-sponsored New Law Preserving Hydrant System Funding

When a fire breaks out in a home or office building, who pays for the water used by firefighters to […]

O.C. Leaders Join SMWD to Celebrate Trampas Canyon Dam and Reservoir Dedication

The dedication of Santa Margarita Water District’s Trampas Canyon Dam and Reservoir on Friday, October 9, 2020 marked an important […]

ACWA Region Event to Explore San Joaquin Valley Water Issues

ACWA’s four-part regional webinar series will continue Oct. 27 with water leaders in Regions 6 and 7 highlighting innovative strategies, […]

Increased Groundwater Levels Reported in Coachella Valley

A new report by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) shows that efforts by Coachella Valley Water District (CVWD) to replenish […]

INNOVATIVE LIVING ARROYOS & ADOPT A CREEK SPOT PROGRAMS RECEIVE RECOGNITION

LIVERMORE – Two Tri-Valley volunteer programs have received statewide recognition for their work to enhance and restore local creeks. This […]

ACWA News Available for Oct. 16, 2020

Sorry, but only ACWA members have permission to view this content. Member login is required.

NID Receives Funding for Fire Fuels Reduction and Meadow Restoration

On Oct. 15, the Nevada Irrigation District (NID) announced that it has received a $145,000 Cal Fire grant for fire […]

ACWA Delivers Roadmap to Achieving VAs to State Officials

ACWA on Oct. 15 submitted “A Roadmap To Achieving the Voluntary Agreements” to Gov. Gavin Newsom and top members of […]

ACWA Warns of Scam Emails Claiming Contact Information for Sale

ACWA has learned about scammers claiming to have a database for sale with contact information of people registered for ACWA’s […]

ACWA Leadership on Headwaters Health Driving Long-Term Response to Wildfires

Another year of catastrophic wildfires have wrecked historic damage to our state and its natural resources. We have at least […]

Upper San Gabriel Valley Municipal Water District Celebrates 60 Years

The Upper San Gabriel Valley Municipal Water District celebrates a 60th Anniversary this year, but this ACWA member agency’s rich […]

CRESCENTA VALLEY WATER DISTRICT’S RECIPE FOR STAYING CONNECTED DURING THE PANDEMIC

Amidst the pandemic and subsequent changes to employee work schedules, to increase social distancing, the Crescenta Valley Water District found […]

Executive Order Aims to Streamline National Water Management

President Donald Trump signed an Executive Order on Oct. 13 that formally establishes an interagency Water Subcabinet aimed at streamlining […]

SCV Water Receives $10.5 Million in Proposition 1 Grant Funds from DWR

SCV Water recently received $10.5 million in Proposition 1 grant funding from the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) Integrated […]