October 2022

El Dorado Water NEWStream

October Edition

A Word From Our Board Chair, Lori Parlin 

On behalf of the Agency staff and Board of Directors, our thoughts are with all of those affected by the Mosquito Fire that burned in Placer and El Dorado counties. We know the fire is further impacting our County’s rural communities and watersheds. The Agency will continue to work with the County and local water entities to support their recovery efforts.


Senate Bill 552 – Requirements for Small Water Suppliers and Rural Communities

In response to worsened and expanded drought conditions, the Agency is leading drought planning efforts throughout El Dorado County, including support for small water suppliers to help improve their drought resiliency. Working with the County’s Environmental Management Department, the Agency is interviewing small water systems to better understand their drought vulnerabilities and water shortage risks. The interviews will help inform and identify short-term response actions and long-term mitigation actions that need to be in place for drought and water shortage preparedness.


The new law, Senate Bill (SB) 552, which took effect on January 1, 2022, outlines requirements at both the state and local levels designed to help small water suppliers and rural communities reduce risks of inadequate water supply during a water shortage. This new drought planning effort is expected to improve the ability for small water suppliers and rural communities to manage future droughts and other water shortage conditions and prevent disastrous interruptions to drinking water for our local communities.


Per SB 552 requirements, the Agency has convened a County Drought and Water Shortage Task Force, which is responsible for facilitating drought and water shortage preparedness for all small water systems and domestic wells within El Dorado County. The Task Force includes core members in the County that are legally responsible for public water systems, state small water systems, and domestic wells, and implementing the requirements of SB 552. It also includes advisory members that are relied on for information and input related to drought conditions, small water system needs, and potential response actions.


To achieve the anticipated outcome of SB 552, the Agency is also working closely with the California Department of Water Resources and State Water Resources Control Board to create opportunities for technical and financial assistance for SB 552 implementation. Participation from all small water suppliers and domestic wells in the County is essential to understand the various needs and barriers to addressing those needs. Owners of small water systems can respond to our emails and calls for information sharing, or visit our website to fill out a Google form


For more information on current drought conditions and resources, please visit the Drought Information page of our website

Caldor Fire: One Year Later 

It has been one year since the Caldor Fire, the 15th largest wildfire in the State’s history. In coordination with El Dorado County, the Agency has been working diligently to help organize the recovery and rebuilding efforts for local water purveyors severely impacted by the fire.  


Recovery efforts are underway in the small community of Grizzly Flats, where the fire destroyed more than 400 homes and significantly damaged or destroyed portions of the community’s water system. Immediately after the fire, the Grizzly Flats Community Services District (GFCSD) Board, staff, and volunteers sprang into action, working tirelessly to restore clean drinking water to the community, which they were able to complete in about two months. In the long months since the fire, GFCSD staff have continued to work diligently to repair the severely damaged water infrastructure. Ongoing recovery efforts include completing temporary and permanent repairs to the water system infrastructure and equipment and assisting with the removal of hazardous trees and other debris created as a result of the fire. System assessments are also ongoing, to determine other necessary repairs or replacements for parts of the water infrastructure and facilities that were damaged or destroyed by the fire, such as the distribution pipelines, service lines and meters, fire hydrants, storage tanks, pump stations, and reservoir liner. GFCSD is continuing to actively pursue funding for repairs/replacement and future hazard mitigation. 


“We know that the Caldor Fire has had significant economic, environmental, and social effects on our County’s rural communities and watersheds,” said George Turnboo, Agency Board Member and El Dorado County Supervisor. “The Agency is continuing to work with the County and small, rural water entities to support ongoing recovery efforts following the devastating fire, including the pursuit of funding to assist with essential water system repairs and replacement.”

Major water purveyors also made progress in their own recovery efforts. Water is once again flowing through El Dorado Irrigation District’s (EID) El Dorado Canal, after Flume 4, one of four sections of a previously wooden flume was destroyed in the Caldor Fire. The El Dorado Canal system is the main source of water supply for a significant portion of EID’s service area, from Pollock Pines all the way to Cameron Park and El Dorado Hills.


During the fire, South Tahoe Public Utility District (STPUD) staff worked around the clock to fix leaks, keep the wells pumping, and water tanks full, to provide the water needed to fight the fire as it moved into the Tahoe Basin. STPUD lost one of its water facilities to the fire, the control center at Arrowhead water tank, which crews were able to quickly repair and return to regular operation. STPUD worked closely with fire personnel throughout the fire, repopulation, and restoration efforts to ensure residents returned home to clean drinking water and a fully functioning wastewater system. Prior to the fire, STPUD invested in high-capacity wells and booster stations, upsized waterlines, added fire hydrants, and installed water system monitoring technology, which optimized firefighting capabilities and helped to protect the community. In partnership with the City of South Lake Tahoe, STPUD is now using American Rescue Plan Act grant funds to install an additional 37 fire hydrants throughout the City over the next two years. These ongoing efforts will help further protect the community from the impact of future catastrophic wildfires. Despite recent improvements, much of the STPUD system – which is mostly a patchwork of small systems built by small private water companies in the 1950s and 1960s – is undersized for fire protection. More funding is needed to upgrade these systems throughout the STPUD service area. Federal and State assistance is being requested as 56 percent of the STPUD service area is owned by these entities.


“South Tahoe Public Utility District was proud to play an important role in meeting the challenge of maintaining safe, clean drinking water, delivering sufficient water for firefighting, and continuing reliable wastewater services to protect our precious environment,” said John Thiel, General Manager of STPUD. “More than ever, with the experience of the Caldor Fire, we are looking forward to advancing our system capabilities to deliver clean, reliable, cost-effective water service to the community, and supporting our neighboring water providers.” 


American River Basin Study Details Importance of Upper Watershed Storage to Improve Water Supply Reliability in the Foothills

The dire impacts of climate change on our region’s water supplies and strategies to address future water demands, flood risks, and environmental impacts were highlighted in the American River Basin Study recently released by the U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation), the Agency, and other local water agencies in the American River Basin. The study identifies future climate and hydrology projections and outlines gaps between water supplies and projected urban, rural, and agricultural demands in the American River Basin.

“Collaborating with Reclamation and water agencies in our region is an important part of our work to ensure that our County has a reliable water supply that can meet growing local needs,” said Ken Payne, Agency General Manager. “Understanding future climate scenarios and the associated impacts is critical to developing projects and actions. These projects and actions will allow the County, as a whole, to continue enjoying the preferred rural-agricultural way of life – allowing landowners to continue to produce high value crops, recreational enthusiasts to continue to enjoy fishing, river rafting and other recreational activities, and small water suppliers and rural communities to have continued access to clean and reliable water.”

The American River Basin Study describes regional climate vulnerabilities and recommends six adaptation portfolios to address the combined climate pressures of warming temperatures, shrinking snowpack, shorter and more intense wet seasons, and more extreme conditions. Foothill communities in El Dorado County face the challenges of unreliable and limited groundwater resources in fractured rock formation and diminishing snowpacks that provide water for local streams and springs. Improvements in the lower American River Basin provide little relief to foothill communities. Thus, a specific climate adaptation portfolio for the Upper American River Basin includes upstream storage, such as the proposed Alder Creek Storage and Conservation Project, which was identified for addressing the unique climate vulnerability of foothill communities and preservation of declining snowpack.

As an upstream adaptation measure, Alder Creek Reservoir is a 168,000 acre-feet high-elevation, off-stream storage project located in El Dorado County between the Sierra Nevada ridge and Placerville. The proposed project would replace lost water storage from reduced snowpack and capture earlier snowmelt to address unique vulnerabilities faced by foothill communities and enhance Reclamation’s flexibility in operating Folsom Reservoir. More information about the proposed Alder Creek Reservoir and the project benefits can be found here. 

Agency Program to Expand Next-Generation Snowpack Monitoring in the Sierra Nevada Prioritized for Federal Funding

The Upper American River Basin Snowpack Monitoring Improvement Program was recently prioritized by U.S. Senator Alex Padilla for additional federal funding. In collaboration with State and Federal agencies and the University of California, this program is designed to modernize snowpack monitoring technology and satellite communications to provide critical real-time data on snowpack conditions, watershed climate trends, and water availability. This data is needed to support improved water management and help the region better prepare for prolonged droughts.


“Improving the accuracy, timeliness, and efficiency of meteorological forecasting and hydroclimatic modeling is the foundation for improved water management and drought preparedness,” said Lori Parlin, Agency Board Chair and El Dorado County Supervisor. “I’m happy to report that we are making great progress on this important program that will benefit all water users and resource managers throughout our County and the state.”

Initial funding for this program came from a grant from Reclamation’s WaterSMART program. Senator Padilla announced that he included the $875,000 additional funding for the program as part of the Senate Energy and Water Appropriations bill that will be reconciled with its House counterpart before final passage.


“We are thrilled that this program was included in the Senate Appropriations bill as this was a main area of focus when we met with Congressional representatives in Washington, D.C. this past spring,” said Ken Payne, Agency General Manager. “We appreciate Senator Padilla’s efforts to ensure there is funding to improve real-time reporting of snowpack conditions so our state and region can better prepare for droughts.”


The program is a partnership between the Agency and the University of California (UC Agriculture and Natural Resources and UC Merced Sierra Nevada Research Institute), with financial support from Reclamation and collaboration with stakeholders, including local water purveyors, Sierra Nevada Conservancy, California Department of Water Resources, State Water Resources Control Board, U.S. Forest Service, and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.