Stakeholder Meeting Updates

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Stakeholder Meeting: February 10, 2021

Meeting Highlights

We first heard from a fantastic panel of speakers:  Emma Walton, the Deputy Director of Water Reuse Operations for the City of Santa Rosa, California; Jim Ladrini, Former Paradise Irrigation District Field Superintendent for the Town of Paradise, California; and Charles Brooks the Founder and Director for the Rebuild Paradise Foundation.  All three panelists shared their experiences of responding to and rebuilding after devastating wildfires in Santa Rosa and Paradise.  After we heard from the panel, the research team gave an overview of the study that can be broken down into two interrelated components: 1) Geospatial Modeling that focuses on the question: “What areas are most vulnerable to water contamination”; and 2) Pipeline and Sensor Testing that focuses on the question: “What environmental and pipeline conditions do sensor need to withstand?”  As part of this conversation, the team shared the Beta version of the Environmental Evaluation Modeling System (EEMS) risk map for identifying areas that may be more vulnerable to pipeline contamination.   Specific highlights from meeting discussion are categorized into the following themes:

Wildfire/Pipeline Damage Response

  • Get into the affected area as soon as possible to shut down the water system—close curb stops and pull meters.  Flush the system immediately. Communicate with fire response and get an escort to close stops as soon as possible. 
  • Do not expect tech and communication systems to be functioning.  Rely on pen, paper, and radios to communicate with fire response and water infrastructure personnel. 
  • Recognize the fatigue and stress that will occur to you and your staff.  Be supportive and do what you can to reduce fatigue.


  • Know your water infrastructure system beforehand (e.g. pipe materials, size of pipes, weak points in the system) and document everything.  FEMA requires highly extensive documentation of damage and possible contamination. 
  • Documentation of damages and losses is also essential for insurance claims.  Many residents will need assistance with this documentation.
  • Understand who has been affected in your community and how that can impact long-term recovery.  For example, the majority of trade-workers in Paradise lost their homes, thus decreasing the local supply of needed skills and labor to begin to rebuild. 
  • Biggest risk to rebuilding and making full recovery is homes and businesses that are under-insured and do not have the capacity to rebuild.

Building Adaptive Capacity to Respond to the next Wildfire

  • Santa Rosa has replaced pump propane tanks with diesel and increased the size of these tanks.
  • Paradise now requires backflow devices and recommends that these devices be encased in nonflammable materials (e.g. cement).  Double check valves can also be used for backflow prevention.
  • Rebuild Paradise is providing funding to ensure that all households can afford backflow devices (e.g. “Missing Middle” Grants). 
  • Focus on attracting people and business back to the area by building in mechanisms for hazard resilience through rebuilding efforts (e.g. backflow devices, WUI building codes, etc.).  

What caused water contamination?  List of Possible Factors 

  • Size of water main pipes.  The smaller the size, the more damage. 
  • Dead-end pipes suffered more damage. 
  • Gaskets that held mains together absorbed contaminates. Let water sit for 72 hours and then test it to determine if gaskets are still leaching. 
  • Distance from pressurization station
  • Positive pressure—the likelihood of depressurization
  • Meter/curb boxes with plastic materials

On June 11, 2020, we had our first stakeholder meeting to talk about what challenges Santa Rosa and Paradise faced in the aftermaths of the 2017 Tubbs Fire and 2018 Camp Fire, respectively. Check out the meeting minutes here.

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