Water, H20, agua, l’eau, wasser…
However you say it, water is the lifeblood of our community and delivering safe, reliable water is the mission of YSPUC. For its size, our water system, perhaps surprisingly, is one of the more complex systems in the state — with multiple pressure zones, different elevations and a wide variety of equipment and materials used in its initial construction. This leads to a high number of annual repairs.
NEW RECORD SET: Over the last weekend, we set a new repair record. 11 MAIN LINE REPAIRS AND 3 SERVICE LINE REPAIRS IN 4 DAYS. Our previous record was 7 mains in 5 days. While these are not the kinds of records that we like to set, a hearty thank you to Ken Harrington and the water crew for their around the clock efforts to keep the water flowing. Thank you also to our YLOA employees in other departments that are part of our new Water Emergency Team (WET) that was created to augment our YSPUC staff for dealing with emergency issues.
These types of records underscore the need for our Pipeline Replacement Project (PRP), which is prioritized to update the most break-prone portions of the system. When we have issues like this our PRP crew is pulled from their scheduled activity which causes delays.
STAFFING LEVELS: We are evaluating the staffing levels for both our water company and PRP teams to look for ways to improve operational efficiencies. Historically, it has been difficult to attract and keep certified water technicians. With our present configuration we would need 4 people to fully staff for well operations. We have been getting by with 2; however, as of August 2nd, we will be down to 1.
To address this in the short term, Greg Wilson, the manager of our PRP Crew will be helping to fulfill these duties while we search for additional staff.
Once our SCADA system is fully deployed, we will be able to reduce the staffing needs for this role from 4 to 2. With that in mind, we have made the decision to accelerate the deployment of our SCADA solution.
ACCELERATE SCADA DEPLOYMENT: A fully deployed SCADA system will enable us to remotely monitor and make adjustments to the water system. It will also significantly reduce the manual labor that is needed to drive to each location for visual inspections and adjustments. As we have had difficulty finding certified technicians to fill this role, a solution like this becomes increasingly important. It will also reduce our long term staffing needs for this role by 50%.
PUBLIC SAFETY POWER SHUTOFF: As part of PGE’s Wildfire Safety Program, mandated by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), YLP may be affected by a PSPS or Public Safety Power Shutoff. A PSPS is proactively de-energizing the power lines to reduce the risk of wildfire during adverse weather conditions. Sustained winds above 25 MPH (with gusts over 45 MPH), humidity below 20% and the condition of dry fuel on the ground (trees, shrubs, grasses, etc) are factors that may result in a planned power outage. The purpose of a PSPS is to reduce the risk of power lines igniting a wildfire.
Typically we will have 24-48 hours advance notice of a PSPS and we will post information on our website about this. However, we encourage everyone to sign up for notifications directly with PGE (PrepareForPowerDown.com) and take several simple proactive steps before such an event occurs.
WILL I HAVE WATER? Yes. You will still have water for a period of time, However, if there is an extended PSPS that lasts several days, we may need to shut down the water system. If the water pressure in our system drops below 5 PSI, it would require us to re-test and re-certify the water quality and would contribute to numerous breaks and leaks. As this process could take 3-5 weeks, and as PSPS’s typically last 2-5 days, the best way to protect our system and the fastest way to get water flowing would be to proactively shut down the system before it reaches critical levels.
HOW LONG WILL I HAVE WATER? We typically have 2-3 days of summer water supply. If everyone cooperates and conserves water, we could extend that time frame for 5-8 days or longer. So the answer is, it depends on how careful we all are with our use of water.
HOW LIKELY IS THIS TO HAPPEN? It is impossible to predict whether this will happen to us or not as this is the first year we might be affected. In the past year, PGE announced 3 PSPS’s — October 2018, November 2018 and June 2019. In one case, power was never turned off. Both of the others were in the North Bay/Sierra Nevada Foothills and lasted for 2 days.
WILL WE BE INSTALLING BACKUP GENERATORS? This is under discussion, but is an expensive proposition that would likely exceed $500,000 and have ongoing maintenance costs — which is a big expense for something that may or may not happen. We are also discussing the idea of using prime generators — which would take us off the grid entirely. This has the potential to reduce our operating costs, but as they run on propane, the costs are variable and much less predictable.
Solar also has been discussed, but is not a good option in this case due to high power requirement (480V triple-phase) and limited space for solar panels near the locations of our pumps and pressure stations.
We will provide more information as we explore our options and plan for the future. I invite all of you to our next board meeting at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, August 27th.
DOWNLOAD the handout provided at the Town Hall.
SEE THE VIDEO of the Town Hall.