PUBLIC DRINKING WATER SUPPLIERS
CAUGHT IN THE MIDDLE ON WILDFIRE LIABILITY
Caught in the middle of the recent debate over wildfire liability are California’s drinking water suppliers, especially those serving rural areas and communities most at risk from catastrophic fires. Without common sense reforms, water suppliers could be forced to bear huge costs for wildfire damage, even when they don’t start those fires. California’s strict liability standard is unsustainable and places drinking water, ratepayers, and taxpayers at risk.
Water Suppliers and their Customers – Fire Victims Themselves – Stuck with Wildfire Bills
Following the Freeway Complex Fire, the Yorba Linda Water District was slapped with a $69 million judgement, despite the Superior Court determining that the Water District did nothing wrong and had nothing to do with starting the fire.
The District had to pay tens of millions of dollars because the fire – which was caused by a disabled vehicle – damaged the water supplier’s pumps, which then couldn’t be used to help fight the fire. The Water District – and the people who depend on it – were victimized first by the fire and again when they got stuck with the bill.
The same logic used against Yorba Linda Water District is now being used in suits across the state against other public drinking water suppliers. These risks will be magnified if the Governor and Legislature do not act to protect the safety of communities who depend on strong water systems.
DIRE CONSEQUENCES OF INACTION
Without common sense reforms, lawsuits against public drinking water suppliers for wildfire damages could:
- Drain millions of dollars needed to build and maintain water infrastructure – putting clean, safe drinking water at risk for Californians;
- Jeopardize the financial stability of public drinking water suppliers, limiting their ability to adapt to climate change and help the state achieve its greenhouse gas emission reduction goals;
- Put ratepayers and taxpayers on the hook for costs that aren’t their fault and force water rates higher; and
- Threaten the jobs of the tens of thousands workers who operate drinking water systems.