How PG&E's planned outages could affect Marin County's water supply

GREENBRAE, Calif. (KGO) -- High up on a hill, behind a barbed wire fence, are large steel tanks-- the likes of which hold Marin County's water supply.

"In the summer months, we have about two days of supply in our tanks," said Drew McIntyre, general manager of the North Marin Water District (NMWD).

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McIntyre says gravity pulls water down pipes to supply homes in the area, but in order to refill the tanks, electricity is needed. A potential problem if PG&E decides to cut power during high fire danger conditions.

"Based upon what PG&E was projecting for how long power could be interrupted for, we're planning for a worst case scenario which would be seven days without power," said McIntyre.

As a result, the NMWD spent more than $200,000 renting and buying extra portable generators to work the pumps and maintain water supply in Novato and North Marin County. But, McIntyre says their customer's cooperation may also be needed.

"We are asking our customers, during these events, to limit outside water use for irrigation."

And if that's not motivation enough, think about your neighborhood fire hydrant, which is supplied by the same water tanks as your house.

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"Water supply is key for us when we get there," said Bret McTigue, with the Marin County Fire Department. "Whether it be a structure fire and having to connect to the hydrant or a vegetation fire when our water tenders are securing water supplies and shuttling them to the fire engines."

But, what about in the event of an unplanned outage?

Unlike, PG&E's wildfire safety power shutoffs, which are widespread, McIntyre points out that outages are usually localized, so the water district's backup generators can usually handle the extra pumping load.
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