Public Safety Power Shutoff Updates

  • by Caroline Minasian
  • Oct 29, 2019
  • Water News

Social Media post from Sonoma Water.

On Oct. 27, Governor Newsom declared a State of Emergency due to the extreme fire and high-wind weather conditions that developed in the days prior. Fires continue to rage throughout the state and Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS) events this week have left more than 960,000 Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) customers and 25,000 Southern California Edison customers without electricity.

ACWA member agencies continue their efforts to provide water and wastewater services during power outages. Many agencies are turning to news releases and social media to help educate customers about the impacts on service and the importance of water conservation during PSPS events. A few examples include the following:

  • East Bay Municipal Water District’s Oct. 28 press release stated that they expect more than 180 water facilities to be affected by the power shutoff including treatment plants, pumping plants and water storage tanks. EBMUD has activated their Emergency Operations Team and has topped off reservoirs in preparation but also advises customers to conserve.
  • Calaveras County Water District wrote that, although they have backup generators for key facilities, water conservation helps lessen the loads on these generators. If a generator fails then the District can face loss of water treatment capacity or sewage spills.
  • El Dorado Irrigation District also shared that, though many facilities have backup power, “it is limited to only meet minimum public health and safety needs,” so the District is also asking customers to discontinue all non-essential water usage that may include outdoor irrigation, clothes washers, dishwashers and car washing.
  • On Oct. 28, the City of Vallejo wrote, “The power shutoffs impact the City’s ability to pump raw water for treatment, limiting us to what was pumped in reservoirs pre-power outage.” PG&E helped facilitate the delivery of a 4160V generator to power the city’s water pumping complex.

At ACWA’s Oct. 25 State Legislative Committee (SLC) Meeting, ACWA staff presented two legislative proposals related to wildfire. The first proposal is intended to address the challenges with Public Safety Power Shutoffs (PSPS), and would prohibit the California Air Resources Board and local air districts from fining water agencies who utilize backup generators during events.

During the meeting, many water agencies noted that they have to choose between paying fines to keep generators running or shutting off water to communities. The current proposal provides more flexibility to water agencies as they respond to PSPS events so that they can provide uninterrupted water and wastewater services to their customers. The committee voted to sponsor the bill with additional input on draft language. The PSPS SLC Work Group is still evaluating if additional legislative fixes are needed to address PSPS challenges.

The second legislative proposal is for water agency coordination on emergency planning. The proposal requests that ACWA staff consult with ACWA members and other statewide associations to determine if there is a need for legislation to ensure that water agencies are included in emergency planning and response efforts. The committee supported research for this bill to determine sponsorship in 2021 and referred the issue to the ACWA Local Government Committee for further consideration. The language of both bills will evolve as wildfires and PSPS events continue.

ACWA’s PSPS Work Group is coordinating with ACWA staff and member agencies to capture members’ experiences, provide regulatory and legislative updates and identify short- and long-term solutions. Member agencies interested in being a part of ACWA’s PSPS work group can contact Regulatory Advocate Chelsea Haines at ChelseaH@ACWA.com.

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