In light of the growing threat posed by wildfires in California, we are gravely concerned that more communities will pay for the unintended consequences if the state’s drinking water suppliers continue to face potential liability for fires they have no role in starting. Holding public drinking water suppliers potentially responsible for fires they do not start could make our communities less safe:
- Threatens Water Safety: The report just issued from the Governor’s Commission on Catastrophic Wildfire Cost and Recovery highlights the threat of “strict liability” on critical infrastructure investments. By choking off capital needed to make continued investments in utility infrastructure, this application of inverse condemnation could undermine the continued safety and reliability of California’s drinking water systems.
- Threatens Community Fire Safety: Our drinking water and fire protection systems are interconnected. Reducing the reliability of California’s drinking water systems could undermine the reliability of our fire protection systems, actually increasing the dangers posed by fires, even in more traditional urban fire scenarios.
To protect our safe drinking water and fire protection systems, we respectfully encourage the Legislature and Administration to implement common sense reforms that make clear public drinking water suppliers are not responsible for the damage from fires they and their facilities do not start. Such a narrowly tailored reform would not unduly affect the rights of homeowners and other fire victims in other circumstances, while at the same time it would help to ensure the continued safety of California’s drinking water and reliability of our fire protection systems.