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Emergency declared following failure of Bear River Canal

Auburn, Calif.- A water shortage emergency was declared by the Directors of the Placer County Water Agency on Thursday (May 5) due to the Apr. 19 failure of the Pacific Gas and Electric Company’s Bear River Canal that severed water supplies to PCWA for its customers.

“A water supply crisis exists for all PCWA water customers across western Placer County. I ask that everyone reduce, conserve and use as little water as possible and to use it wisely as every drop counts until this crisis ends,” said Lowell Jarvis, board Chairman.


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The emergency declaration followed agency and PG&E staff reports on the status of conditions, the severity of impacts upon all PCWA customers and PG&E’s needs to pursue emergency canal repairs. Also, Thursday, PG&E officials asked the agency’s board for the declaration to support expediting permitting and other approvals needed for rapid repairs by PG&E.

“Since the PG&E canal failure,” said David A. Breninger, General Manager, “the agency has focused upon keeping together a ‘patch quilt’ pattern of very limited emergency water supplies to try to service as many of our customers as long as possible with some water. We’ve had to reroute supplies and collaborate in innovative ways with nearby water districts and cities for help.” “Now we need a strong spirit of individual cooperation and community support by all PCWA water customers to immediately and drastically reduce water use,” said Breninger.

The impacts of the shortage are significant and remain acute for irrigation customers served along the agency’s 165 mile canal system serving 4,000 accounts. Irrigation customers along many canals are now or will be facing rolling water outages and delivery restrictions until the crisis passes. “The many canals serving the greater Auburn to Newcastle areas and along Auburn-Folsom Road are currently the most severely impacted. PCWA has only one third supplies to meet these needs,” said Breninger.

And, in far western Placer County, no water is available at all from PCWA for farmers located west of Lincoln.

Treated water customers, numbering 32,500 accounts serving 150,000 people are asked to immediately use the absolute least amount of water possible indoors and out. “Outdoor residential watering is the largest use of treated water and I ask everyone to dramatically curtail that use now,” said Breninger.

Specific actions needed during the water crisis:

  • Only water outdoor landscaping, grass and yards three (3) days a week and reduce watering times.
  • Water outside only between sunset and sunrise. No daytime watering.
  • Addresses ending in an odd digit: water only outside on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday nights to sunrise.
  • Addresses ending in an even digit: water only outside on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday nights to sunrise.
  • Do not wash down driveways, sidewalks or parking lots at any time.

Customers may call the PCWA Customer Services Center at (530) 823-4850 or toll-free (800) 464-0030.