Keeping the Water Flowing During the COVID-19 Emergency

By April 6, 2020News, News & Info

As the coronavirus emergency continues to bring extraordinary change to the world, local water providers are continuing their essential work to keep safe, reliable water flowing while also protecting the health and safety of their employees.

Some of the actions taken by Sacramento-area water providers in the past several months have included:

  • Implementing pandemic emergency operations plans, including identifying minimum staffing levels, critical positions, business continuity plans and available redundancy.
  • Confirming mutual aid agreements with other water providers, as well as reaching out to smaller and neighboring systems to offer assistance, if needed.
  • Providing relief for customers experiencing financial hardship such as suspending disconnections for nonpayment, restoring service to customers recently disconnected for nonpayment and waiving penalties for late payments.
  • Switching to helping customers via phone and email rather than at in-person offices.
  • Using technology such as conference calls and video conferencing for board and staff meetings.
  • Taking steps to support employees through flexible employment policies that allow time off to care for a sick family member or children at home due to school closures.
  • Providing support to local businesses. One water provider is supporting local restaurants by sharing costs with on-site staff to order meals periodically.
  • Asking staff to telecommute when possible and taking precautions such as social distancing when in the office.
  • Protecting field staff by initiating staggered and rotating shifts, using social distancing (one person per vehicle), asking crews to work from their vehicles and allowing staff to take utility vehicles home (rather than come into the office).

“The overall outlook among local water providers is that they are in this for the long haul,” said RWA Executive Director Jim Peifer. As Roseville’s Assistant Environmental Utilities Director Sean Bigley said recently, “We’re treating this as a marathon. Job number one is to stay healthy because will need to keep at this for some time.”