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
Coalition Letter: Request to Advance Wildfire Legislation

To: Speaker Pelosi, Majority Leader McConnell, Leader Schumer and Leader McCarthy Subject: Coalition Request to Advance Wildfire Legislation Letter excerpt: […]

Coalition Letter: Advance Clean Fleets Workshop

Agency: California Air Resources Board Subject: Coalition Comments on the September 18, 2020 Advanced Clean Fleets Workshop Letter excerpt: The signatories […]

2020 Summary of Legislation

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

2020 Summary of Appellate Cases

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

Amicus Curiae Letter Requesting Depublication of Malott v. Summerland Sanitary District

To: California Supreme Court Subject: Request for Depublication of Malott v. Summerland Sanitary District (2020) _Cal.App.5th_ [2020 WL 6128117] (Case No. […]

Comment Letter: At Risk Assessment 2.0 for Public Water Systems

Agency: State Water Resources Control Board Subject: ACWA and CMUA Comments regarding Draft Final White Paper Discussion on Evaluation of Potential Indicators & […]

Property Tax and Reserve Funds

Property Tax and Reserve Funds policy principles document includes information on the following: Property Taxes Reserve Funds Specific Policy Principles […]

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 […]

Amicus Curiae Letter in Support of Rate-Setting Case

To: California Supreme Court Subject: In Support of Petition for Review Coachella Valley Water District v. Superior Court of the […]

Federal Regulatory Issues Chart

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

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 […]

Suggested News

15 Articles prev next
EVMWD Further Postpones Rate Increase to April 1

To assist customers financially impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, Elsinore Valley Municipal Water District (EVMWD) will further delay the pending […]

Board Approves $26 Million Budget for 2021

PALMDALE – A $26.24 million budget for calendar year 2021 was adopted with a 5-0 vote by the Palmdale Water […]

ACWA and Partners Urge Congress to Act on Wildfire Legislation

WASHINGTON, D.C. – ACWA, in coordination with several associations, water agencies, and counties, sent a letter today to Congressional leaders […]

ACWA Virtual Fall Conference Features Water Leaders and Experts

SACRAMENTO – The Association of California Water Agencies (ACWA) will host its 2020 Fall Virtual Conference & Exhibition on Dec. 2-3 […]

Orange County Water District Retains ‘AAA’ Fitch Rating for 13 th Consecutive Year

FOUNTAIN VALLEY–The Orange County Water District’s (OCWD; the District) commitment to sound financial management was reaffirmed when Fitch Ratings assigned […]

EMWD and You: Working Together for a Healthy Sewer System

PERRIS — November 19, 2020, is World Toilet Day which was established by the United Nations to raise awareness of […]

EMWD Hosts Virtual State of the District

PERRIS — Eastern Municipal Water District (EMWD) today hosted its virtual State of the District event to provide key stakeholders […]

ACWA News Available for Nov. 20, 2020

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

Member Spotlight Nov. 2020: Alameda County Water District Working Within Broad Collaboration to Restore Bay Area Steelhead Runs

Collaboration among ACWA member agency Alameda County Water District (ACWD), a construction firm and environmental groups has secured $2 million […]

Fall Conference Builds on Summer’s Virtual Success

You will not want to miss ACWA’s 2020 Virtual Fall Conference & Exhibition for a long list of reasons, including […]

Faces of Water: Peter Henrie

  1. Describe your job. I operate the 35 million-gallons-a-day Leslie O. Carter Water Treatment Plant and manage the distribution […]

Yuba Water Sues State Water Board

MARYSVILLE – Yuba Water Agency filed lawsuits in both federal and state court Nov. 13 to challenge the water quality […]

Region’s Water Quality Celebrated by Switchfoot Musician Jon Foreman

As part of its campaign to promote the quality of local water supplies, the San County Diego Water Authority and […]

McMullin Area GSA Video Provides Narrative for Achieving Sustainability

The McMullin Area Groundwater Sustainability Agency (MAGSA), in collaboration with J Comm, Inc., have created a visually engaging video highlighting […]

Yuba Water invests approximately $1 million to reduce flood risk, other improvements

MARYSVILLE– Yuba Water Agency’s board of directors today approved approximately $1 million in grants for flood risk reduction, water quality […]