“It’s all a matter of capital,” said General Manager Steve Erler in discussing his district’s preparation to deal with the aftermath of a major earthquake. “There’s only so much you can do in a timely manner.” Even as FVWD is in the process of updating its infrastructure with a major pipe replacement project, Erler noted there are always other facets of infrastructure that need updating to the latest seismic standards.
As with the other districts, Erler’s plan places first responsibility in the aftermath of a major quake on the preservation or restoration of potable water sufficient to supply district residents and enough to supply local fire response. “We’d first isolate problems until repairs could be made, then prioritize the most important repairs,” said Erler. “The biggest danger would be to lose a majority of stored water before repairs could be made.” Erler noted that if the earthquake severely damaged water transportation systems, customers might have to come to a central location to get water. Although the district has backhoes and equipment to make needed repairs, it does not have a truck that could transport water throughout the district.
As with other districts, FVWD conducts tabletop exercises to keep staff aware of contingencies and is networked with Riverside County Office of Emergency Services. Erler noted that FVWD was first on the Hill to install seismic protection, such as ball joint connections that move with the tanks on all storage tanks. He also noted FVWD’s large storage capacity (4.9 million gallons) and the fact that distribution is largely gravity-fed. Also, district tanks have flex seismic connections, the district office has a generator and a trailer mounted generator, repair parts are distributed throughout district infrastructure, the district has both a gas and diesel storage facility and the general manager and staff have completed FEMA disaster response courses.
Idyllwild Water District (IWD)
IWD sits in the middle of the three districts, at a lower elevation than Fern Valley or Pine Cove water districts. As a result, it relies more on pumping than the other districts. IWD has a district office generator and a stand-by portable generator that can operate all Foster Lake wells and the three water treatment plants. With an electrical outage, likely after a major quake, IWD has the added advantage of being able to operate its Foster Lake facility with a 42-killowatt solar system.
General Manager Terry Lyons said the district has installed seven earthquake flexible connections with the final two scheduled for the South Ridge tanks this summer. The wastewater plant has a 125kW stationary generator sufficient to operate the whole plant.
“Should some of our 26 wells become seriously damaged, we would need 225 gallons per minute to meet maximum water demands,” said Lyons. “Our emergency program will provide us those levels even after losing up to 70 percent of our wells.” Lyons noted his district performs regular field exercises to deal with disaster scenarios. Even if infrastructure sustains major damage, IWD is set to provide water through portable water stations that can be fed by gravity without the need for electrical pumping. Lyons is certified by the California Special Training Institute on earthquake preparation.
IWD personnel have operational procedure manuals, both at the main office and in the field, to provide direction about how to respond to various emergencies.
Pine Cove Water District (PCWD)
General Manager Jerry Holldber said his district is well prepared, with new storage tanks designed and built for the seismic area in which they are located; all are located on 3⁄4-inch rock with earthquake flex connections; most of the district wells have generator switches and some have their own generators; PCWD also has a portable generator that could be moved within the district or, if needed, to the other districts.
Holldber noted that PCWD could pipe up from IWD in an emergency, as part of mutual assistance agreements in place among the three districts, or gravity flow down to IWD. “We have common standardized connections for generators among the three districts,” said Holldber.
Each general manager talked of the Mutual Aid Agreement in place among them and that if and when a disaster hits, particularly a major quake, the districts are prepared to work together to ensure water distribution to customers and for firefighting purposes.