Water & Wildfires

Newman Fire well protection
IB well snipped

Objective 3: Protect Water System from Wildfire Threat

Relevant Standards

  • Uninterrupted water, wastewater, and reclaimed water services
  • Water supply and system resilient to the effects of climate change
  • Provide safe, secure, and reliable service during normal and emergency conditions

Background

The majority of Flagstaff’s water supplies are located outside of town and in the forest. These supplies are extremely susceptible to the effects of wildfire. Climate change models indicate that the frequency of fires will increase due to higher temperatures and the lengthening of summer-like weather. This may include a higher frequency and/or severity of lightning storms, which also increases the risk of fire.

Challenge/Opportunity

Wildfires are an imminent threat to water service reliability because of the potential impact on critical water assets, including electricity to pump water, system communications, and the quality of water in Upper Lake Mary (due to silty runoff from fire ravaged areas). Loss of Upper Lake Mary as a water resource due to water quality problems would increase energy costs (pumping of additional water from aquifers).

Timing Concerns

Wildfires should be viewed as an immediate and increasing threat caused by climate change. The responses outlined in this Strategic Objective should be a high priority for the Division.

Specific Responses  January to June 2020

Steps Champion Action Items Next Steps
1. Support the funding of forest maintenance Operations Manager,Water Production Manager, Flagstaff Fire All City of Flagstaff owned high voltage powerlines and electrical equipment in the Woody Mtn. Wellfield were cleared of vegetation (149 trees pruned, 10 trees removed); both increasing water production system resiliency and decreasing wildfire threat.
All high voltage powerlines and equipment will be inspected every 5 years for vegetation requiring mitigation.
2. Increase radio redundancy and protecting radio towers to  improve communication reliability N/A N/A N/A
3. Reduce communication risks by developing local control of  water assets, including treatment plants N/A N/A N/A
4. Assess reliability (and rehabilitate as needed) assets for  transferring water to fight fires N/A N/A N/A
5. Purchase land for sedimentation ponds to protect Lake  Mary WTP water quality and design these ponds  (Contingent on Lake Mary yield predictions given climate             change) N/A N/A N/A
6. Continue developing increased back-up power capabilities N/A N/A N/A
7. Integrate increasing risks from wildfires into stormwater               planning, including data collection, advanced hydrologic/             hydraulic modeling and flood warning system. N/A N/A N/A