Recently, customers have asked “why is TUD having its ditch outage during fire season and PG&E power shut off events? Can anything be done that would lessen interruptions during fire season.” These are good questions that TUD takes seriously.
Like you, TUD is subject to the timing of the PG&E Tuolumne Main Canal Outage and PG&E Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS) events. TUD is a 24/7 operation that strives to ensure continuous water and sewer service throughout the county. To meet this goal, TUD formed specialized response teams and backup power supplies to prepare itself for these unexpected power outage events. Unfortunately, PG&E performs its annual Tuolumne Main Canal during this time of year as it has for nearly 100 years during the month of October. Because TUD receives 95% of its water supply from the PG&E Tuolumne Main Canal, TUD coincides its annual ditch maintenance outage with the PG&E Tuolumne Main Canal outage and asks for precautionary water conservation from its customers. The schedule is pre-arranged with PG&E to clear the ditches of debris and perform required maintenance and repairs prior to the winter season. This year is unusual because PG&E also notified Tuolumne County of a PSPS event on Friday, October 24, 2020 scheduled to begin on the last day of the annual PG&E main ditch outage.
Since PG&E began its outreach in 2019 related to its planned, widespread PSPS events, TUD immediately began planning and preparing its response by acquiring additional generators, strategically placing backup power across its service area and training staff for PSPS response. Upon notification of the October 25, 2020 PSPS event, TUD staff got busy working around the clock staging generators and mobilizing to ensure continuous water and wastewater service to the community. As of yesterday, October 25, 2020 generators were in place, water storage tanks were refilling, and the vast majority of TUD customers have not and will not experience any interruption in service.
While TUD has no influence on nor control of the PG&E power shutoff events, TUD staff works closely with PG&E and is investing in capital improvement projects to minimize impacts to water and wastewater services and ditch operations to the extent it can. The District has successfully managed operations during three previous PSPS events, improving its response each time, and will do so again with the support and water conservation of its customers.
We know these are trying times – the year 2020 has thrown one thing after another at the world, our nation, state, and us here at home. Between COVID-19, catastrophic wildfires, PG&E PSPS, water supply concerns and more – tensions are running high. TUD and its employees are all experiencing the same events right along with its customers. The good news is that TUD’s proactive strategies are helping to ensure continual water supply and wastewater service despite PG&E’s PSPS events. Like PSPS events, TUD does not control PG&E Tuolumne Main Canal outage but is committed to exploring maintenance options to minimize outages during these unexpected PSPS events.
TUD appreciates the community’s patience and support while the District continually evolves its response to the new paradigm of PG&E power outages.