Commissioner Carla Peterman of the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), opened the 2013 California Water Association’s (CWA) Spring Conference with a review of a variety of topics ranging from emergency preparedness to the steps the CPUC has taken to implement sound water policy in support of a reliable water system. Peterman outlined several challenges facing the water industry including:
- Preparing for emergencies and the effects of climate change.
- Providing safe water supplies while maintaining the lowest possible rates.
- Seeking efficiencies.
- Diversifying supplies.
- Estimating future water demands with accuracy.
- Managing rate design, safety, reliability and customer engagement.
- Coordinating the state’s water, gas and electric utilities for a more responsive infrastructure.
Commissioner Peterman emphasized the need to integrate lessons learned across the utility industries and commended the forum for focusing on emergency preparedness. When questioned about how she hopes to manage the tension between conservation and rate increases, Peterman indicated she will manage carefully and balance long-term goals against environmental issues while being sensitive to increasing costs and the need to raise money to replace aging infrastructure.
In her role as commissioner, Peterman indicated the CPUC regulates 120 water utilities serving approximately 5.8 million Californians. Since 2010, the CPUC has adhered to the Water Action Plan, which responds to historic and comprehensive water legislation, including the Safe, Clean and Reliable Drinking Water Supply Act and the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Reform Act. Looking forward, the CPUC will continue to apply regulatory best practices from the energy utilities to the water utilities as the CPUC places water conservation at the top of its priority list.