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Blackout Protection in Doubt

SACRAMENTO, CA, March 29,2001 — Public safety could be compromised if the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) decides not to exempt water utilities from rolling blackouts, warned the Association of California Water Agencies (ACWA).

The CPUC was poised to rule as early as 27 March on ACWA's appeal of a 16 March draft decision not to classify water utilities as "essential facilities" exempt from rotating power outages. If the commission does not issue a ruling this week, it may revisit the appeal at its next meeting, 3 April.

"Undermining the reliability of water service is not only a risk for public health, safety and welfare," said Dan Smith, the ACWA's director of regulatory affairs. "It also could threaten many economic activities and the basic economic stability of many local communities and the state itself."

Several water utilities have suffered from rolling blackouts since the beginning of the state's power shortages last year. From 1 November to 31 December 2000, for example, the Orange County Water District was hit by nine electricity interruptions. California officials are warning the state faces a severe power crunch this summer, due to air conditioner use.

Under current regulations, a water agency may request to be excluded from a blackout or to have electric service restored in case of an emergency, such as a fire. Smith said that trying to communicate with a power company in the event of a fire emergency would be problematic at best.

He also noted that sudden outages and power surges can create mechanical problems for water utility equipment, resulting in extended down time and the inability to respond to such an emergency.

..........courtesy of http://www.watertechonline.com

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