With temperatures rising and climate change increasing drought conditions in California, a project funded by DWR provided critical fire-fighting support to the Mariposa community by strengthening local water supply infrastructure as they battled one of the largest wildfires of 2022.
The Mariposa County Resource Conservation District was awarded $700,000 in 2020 from DWR’s Integrated Regional Water Management (IRWM) program. This funding supported a project called the “Bootjack Fire Station Water Storage Project”, which included the installation of a new water tank at a local fire station in the disadvantaged community of Bootjack. The project’s purpose was to increase local water storage to fight the growing number of wildfires in the region.
The district installed the new tank in the spring of 2022 and finalized testing before receiving a certificate of completion in mid-July. A few days later, the Oak Fire ignited and quickly devoured more than 19,000 acres and 124 structures in the community.
Located south of the fire, the new water tank helped firefighters respond quickly by supplying easily accessible water to water tenders. Water tenders are used to help firefighters transport water from a water to the scene of the fire. The new system can now fill two water tenders in 10 minutes and reduced the turnaround time for water tenders replenish their water supply and return to the scene from 60 minutes to 30 minutes.
As of August, the tank provided 500,000 gallons of water for firefighting and mop-up operations, including dowsing burning ashes and extinguishing other burning materials. County fire personnel also shared that the tank helped save some homes in the area.
The raging fire is now under control. Representatives from the district attribute the new system for part of the success of putting out the fire.
“We cannot express our gratitude enough to the Department of Water Resources and their IRWM program. The new Bootjack water tank played a crucial role by assisting firefighters in stopping the fire's eastward progress and steering it north where its intensity was reduced,” said Melinda Barrett, executive director of Mariposa County Resource Conservation District. “Because of this tank, many residents were able to return to their homes.”
“This project is a great example of integrated watershed management and successful collaboration between state and local government. DWR will continue to provide necessary financial assistance to help protect our communities as California’s climate shifts to longer drier periods,” said Carmel Brown, manager of the Financial Assistance Branch at DWR.
Funded by voter-approved Proposition 1, DWR’s IRWM Program supports projects that respond to local challenges by improving water supply reliability, reducing fire risk, increasing water storage, and improving water quality while adapting for future challenges caused by climate change and drought.
An additional impact from California’s ongoing drought and warming temperatures includes elevated wildfire risk. California’s climate in this century has been drying and warming, and statistics provided by CAL FIRE show that many of the largest and destructive wildfires in California have occurred since 2000.
DWR’s IRWM program is currently accepting applications for the second round of implementation funding to help address these impacts and expects to announce the first phase of awards later this fall and the second phase in spring 2023. Applicants must coordinate through their respective established IRWM Regional Water Management Group and can submit grant applications using DWR’s online submittal tool, GRanTS.
With dry and hot conditions pointing to a fourth year of drought in California, the state remains committed to help communities strengthen local and regional water resilience. For more information about upcoming funding opportunities, visit DWR’s Grant and Loans webpage.