Truth or Consequences, NM — For centuries, Native American tribal leaders and others have trekked to this oasis to rest and relax in the abundant hot springs that bubble up from the subterranean desert floor.
But amid a worsening regional drought, the city with the bizarre name is losing 200 million gallons of potable water a year as old underground pipes leak, spit and sometimes get blown 30 feet into the air, draining not only its About 6,000 residents are at risk. As well as shutting off their water, the city’s five public schools and its only hospital and nursing home were also threatened with operations.
City officials said schools have been forced to close several times in the past year without warning because the water was shut off during repairs.
The system is so old that it consists of wooden pipes manufactured in the 1800s, and has been fixed by an employee of the city’s water department and two others on loan from the sewer department. Last week, they were responsible for fixing 14 broken lines, 11 of which occurred in a single day, said Arnulfo Castañeda, the wastewater director.
Resident Susan Abbotts, 72, said her water was suddenly shut off last month after a break near her home caused water to shoot 30 feet into the air.
“I worry about where this is going,” she said.
So is Jesus Baare, manager of El Faro restaurant, who lost his water three weeks ago without warning while food was being served and dishes were being washed. The business of the city was closed for two days.
“I understand up to a certain point, but it keeps happening,” Barre said. “That’s the frustration.”
Last year, 30 water pipes were broken in one day. City Manager Bruce Swingle said that because the system continues to fail, water could be shut off to parts of the city for a week.
“This is a crisis,” he said last week. “We’re there.”
a geographic division
Millions of gallons, representing 43% of the city’s supply, were lost last year as the West struggled under a drought that threatened the power-generating capabilities of Lakes Mead and Powell, and Colorado drying up the river, which provides most of the region’s water.
The situation also reflects geographic divisions in the US as rural communities compete with larger metropolitan areas for a larger share of the $555 billion in federal infrastructure bill to upgrade the country’s aging bridges, roads, levees and pipelines.