PUC draft decision exempting water utilities from blackouts praised by ACWA
A proposed decision by the PUC to consider blackout exemption for California water utilities was called a 'positive' first step today by the ACWA, but stronger action will be required to fully protect public health and safety.
SACRAMENTO, Calif., May 14, 2001—A proposed decision by the Public Utilities Commission to further consider blackout exemption for California water utilities was called a "positive" first step today by the Association of California Water Agencies (ACWA), but stronger action will be required to fully protect public health and safety.
"Our members distribute about 90 percent of the delivered water in California and for many, rotating outages present significant concern relative to public health and safety and the public welfare," said Dan Smith, ACWA's director of regulatory affairs.
ACWA has pursued the blackout exemptions because many water utilities could find their drinking water quality jeopardized and water service interrupted due to blackouts. Blackouts could also compromise fire safety and lead to sewage and storm water discharge systems failing if pumps lose power. Major water pipeline breaks could also result.
ACWA and its members have argued that California water agencies should be included under existing PUC exemption criteria established for essential customers "necessary to protect public health and safety."
Some other refinements to the proposed PUC rule will be necessary if California residents are to avoid concerns about their water service in addition to weathering the probable blackouts, ACWA said.
Those refinements include:
* Those communities that would suffer the greatest impacts due to blackouts should be exempted under a public welfare classification.
* If fire fighting, telecommunications, power production and other sectors are exempted from blackouts, then those who provide the necessary water for those services should likewise be exempted.
* Availability of backup generation should not be the sole consideration in denying an exemption. Backup power is often limited and intended for use in acute situations, not for chronic blackouts.
* Those water systems that use more electricity to power-down and power-up their operations than they would use under normal operations should receive consideration for exemption.
Smith urged the PUC to adopt a "common sense approach that will minimize the negative impacts of rotating outages and protect public health and safety."
ACWA is a statewide organization whose 440 public water agencies are responsible for about 90% of the water delivered in California. For more information, visit www.acwanet.com.