Firefighters union supports water efficiency standards for California
September 13, 2017
• Join with utilities, cities, businesses and NGOs
• “Easy to forget how devastating the drought was for the state, but nowhere was it as severe as the Central Valley”
California Professional Firefighters, the state council of the International Association of Firefighters, has thrown its support behind Senate Bill 606 and Assembly Bill 1668 over concerns about availability of water supplies during wildfire emergencies.
Natural Resources Defense Council says that CPF is joining Metropolitan Water District, East Bay Municipal Utilities District, Inland Empire Utilities Agency, the cities of Sacramento, Los Angeles, and Roseville – and “dozens” of businesses and nonprofit environmental and equity groups – in supporting the legislation.
The bills would scale up water efficiency, curb water waste and improve drought planning for vulnerable communities. They are designed to build on the conservation progress California made during the drought and, sy the supporters, “create a more fair and flexible framework for long-term efficiency.”
Unlike the flat percentage cut from the emergency drought mandate, these bills would create standards for each utility that reflect local conditions, population and land use.
The legislation will ensure future water supply projects are sized to maximize value and maintain water affordability for all Californians.
The proposed legislation also seeks to address the disproportionate burden that certain communities faced during the last drought, highlighting the environmental justice aspect of California's water woes.
"A wet winter can make it easy to forget how devastating the drought was for the state, but nowhere was it as severe as the Central Valley, where thousands of domestic wells went dry and left residents without water," says Sonia Saini, policy analyst at Community Water Center, a Visalia-based organization that works to ensure all Californians have access to safe, clean and affordable drinking water.
"Small rural populations are uniquely vulnerable to water shortages, and this is precisely the time to act to be fully prepared for the next drought,” she says. “AB 1668 includes requirements for proactive, localized water planning specifically for these communities."
Tracy Quinn, a senior water policy analyst with the Natural Resources Defense Counci, says California's prosperity and resiliency depend on a stable water supply. “We made tremendous progress in water efficiency measures during the drought, and we're guaranteed to face another one in the future. So we have no excuse not to be prepared when the time comes."
In a letter, CPF wrote:
"Extreme climate events are a direct threat to the lives and livelihoods of millions of Californians. For California's firefighters, the impact of climate change isn't a theoretical discussion: it's a reality that our members confront every day on the front lines...Climate change means California now faces a new reality: longer and more frequent droughts and bigger, hotter wildfires. As massive wildfires burn across the state, California's firefighters struggle with the availability of less water for putting those fires out...Ultimately, both of these bills will improve water supply reliability and in doing so, provide firefighters a sufficient supply of water to aid in fighting fires and protect lives and property."
The bills are expected to reach the Senate and Assembly floors later this week.