Wildfire used to be a threat only in hot, dry months, and in wooded regions. Now, wildfire season is much longer and far-reaching.
During periods of high fire danger, PG&E may turn off power to broad swaths of Northern California in the interest of public safety. The outages, called Public Safety Power Shutoffs – or PSPS – may last for days at a time, with little to no advance warning. PSPS could affect all power customers, including EBMUD.
Planning for a widespread emergency power outage is a complex challenge for an agency that provides water and wastewater service 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
EBMUD has dozens of portable pumps and generators for overall emergency preparedness. Due to the extent of a PSPS, we’ve leased several dozen more in varying sizes to keep our pumping plants running during a power shutoff.
Pumping plants are critical links in the water storage system. They help convey water from our treatment plants, which have backup generators on site, to reservoirs and tanks at higher elevations.
As a regular practice during Red Flag Warnings, EBMUD fills up those reservoirs and tanks to be ready for fire flows. Adding generators at pumping plants helps make us as ready as possible to handle a PSPS.
But our work doesn’t end there. EBMUD also manages more than 57,000 acres of open space here and in the Sierra Foothills, and we continuously work to make that land more resistant to fires. We build fire breaks, remove highly flammable vegetation and partner with fire departments to conduct controlled burns. We also manage vegetation near EBMUD facilities and rights-of-way. The schedule of that work can be found at ebmud.com/about-us/vegetation-management.
If and when a PSPS is announced in the East Bay, EBMUD may ask you to minimize your water use to ensure water is available for firefighting and indoor use. At these times, turn off your outdoor irrigation. And don’t forget to stock up on emergency water supplies – two gallons per person per day for up to seven days.