When most people pay their water bill, they typically only think of how much water they purchase, which, in this time of drought, is a natural thing with which to be concerned. Most people don’t really think about their “ISO” charge.
What is the “ISO” – ISO is an acronym for Insurance Standards Office. The ISO is a national organization that does risk assessment and underwriting for the insurance industry. Of particular interest is that the ISO utilizes its “Fire Suppression Rating Schedule” to measure the major elements of a community’s fire protection system. The ISO rating translates into how much homeowners and businesses pay for fire insurance or even if fire insurance is available in a given community.
Items included in the rating are: emergency communications; telecommunications; dispatch; number of engine companies, number of reserve engines; water pumping capacity of engines; ladders and service companies; deployment of stations and response times; number and training of fire personnel; fire prevention through code enforcement; public fire safety education and fire investigation.
In the ISO’s “Fire Suppression Rating Schedule,” a community can receive a possible 105.5 possible rating points, 50 of which are based upon the assessment of the Fire Department.
ISO Rating and the Water System – As part of the evaluation process, ISO also rates the community’s water system and its ability to meet firefighting requirements while at the same time meeting normal operational demands. Water supply quantity, storage distribution, storage capacity, water main capacity, flow rates, the ability to sustain those fire flow rates for extended periods of time, fire hydrant size, type, distribution, and readiness are the factors looked at in the water system rating process.
On the ISO website it states that “water resources are vital to a community’s health. ISO works with …. the municipal water supply agencies nationwide to evaluate the adequacy of water infrastructures for fire suppression and effective firefighting. Water is a major component of a community’s Public Protection Classification (PPC™) grade. The water supply is also important to insurers, who need an accurate and objective assessment of the fire protection capabilities that serve millions of residential and commercial properties.”
Little wonder then that 40 of the 105.5 total possible points are based upon the assessment of the water supply and water system.
So how does VCMWD’s water system stack up under the ISO analysis? In the last ISO rating completed in 2011, Valley Center’s water system garnered almost 37 out of 40 possible points and was classified as a “1” water system, meaning “exemplary fire protection” capability. This was obtained largely because at 24 out of 25 test locations in the system, available water flow from hydrants met or exceeded the fire suppression requirements. Since 2011, the water system has continued to be upgraded with more hydrants and it is likely that the ISO rating might be even higher for the next evaluation.
According to Fire Chief Joe Napier, the Valley Center Fire Protection District has “a level of comfort in the knowledge that the Water District will be there supporting fire operations by improving necessary volume and assuring needed pressure thresholds are in place to quickly and efficiently mitigate the fire emergency.”
Where is the ISO Charge on the Water Bill? – It’s there, but is part of the monthly service charge and in the charge for water shown on the water bill. It is the portion of your monthly water charges that go to fund the outside contractors, engineers, materials, equipment and District staff needed to operate, maintain and upgrade the water system and sustain its capacity to meet normal demands, plus it helps meet the fire flow demands which might be placed on it at any time.
Use Less Water, Water Rates Go Up – VCMWD is focused on and committed to maintaining the water system in a high state of readiness at all times because fires don’t come with an advanced warning.
Consequently, even though water demands continue to decline due to the loss of agriculture and the effects of drought and conservation, the amount of revenue needed to operate, maintain and sustain the water infrastructure per unit of water commodity or monthly service charge must inevitably increase. The option to sustaining revenues is to reduce the investment in the capacity, capabilities and readiness of the water system at the cost of lowered firefighting capability and overall public safety in the community.
In the interest of maintaining public safety, VCMWD does not see that as an option. We hope our ratepayers agree.
Valley Center Municipal WaterDistrict