A lot of disgruntled people in this southern Utah community of 330 residents would like to rename the town: No Water, Utah.
A pump went out on the city's only well Tuesday, and as of early Wednesday afternoon most of the community's residents had been without running water for more than 24 hours.They were unable to flush toilets, wash their hands, bathe or get a drink of water, according to one angry resident who called the Deseret News to complain about the situation.
"I blame the water department. It is so mismanaged. It is ludicrous. They have to shut down the whole system to work on any part of it," said the caller, who asked not to be identified, referring to what he called past problems.
Elizabeth Joseph, the city's attorney and wife of Mayor Alex Joseph, denied that the city has had long-standing water problems.
"We have some lunatics who see a massive conspiracy behind every rock. They think we've turned the water off to torture them," she replied.
The caller asked, "If Elizabeth and the mayor are so concerned about our water situation, why didn't they make arrangements for water to be trucked in as soon as the pump burned up?"
When contacted earlier Wednesday by phone about the situation, Elizabeth Joseph told the Deseret News it will take until at least Saturday evening to replace a pump motor in the well and return the city water system to normal operations.
But she said the city didn't wait until Wednesday to try to resolve the problem. Corrective measures were being taken Tuesday, she said.
The attorney said she wasn't aware of anyone in desperate circumstances because of the lack of water. Some 32 residents complaining about that and other matters are "running around flapping their jaws, complaining . . . (they don't realize) we have been working 24 hours" to correct the problem, she said.
Wednesday afternoon Gayle Smith, a state health department official, termed the overall situation in Big Water a "very critical health problem."
While the lack of water has caused "plenty of inconvenience . . . no one seems to be keeling over in the street," Elizabeth Joseph said.
She said homes started losing water about 1 p.m. Tuesday after water apparently got into a conduit housing an electrical cable that runs to the pump. She reviewed a number of possible causes for the problem. Most likely what happened, she said, is that when the pump became overloaded it could have sent condensed moisture up the conduit, with the moisture dripping onto and shorting out the cable. Or, she said someone could have "dumped water on the cable."
She said residents were contacted and told to store water wherever they could. Classes at Big Water School, which serves children in kindergarten through the 12th grade, were canceled early Tuesday afternoon. She said children were told not to return to school Wednesday morning if they didn't have water in their own homes.
By 4 p.m. Tuesday, two electricians and a well-drilling company were on the scene, concluding that a new pump was needed, she said.
"But to put the pump in is a two-day job. It takes one day to (remove) the casing and pump and another day" to reinstall the equipment. A rig needed for the job is on another site but will be available Friday morning when the work will begin, Elizabeth Joseph said.
The submersible pump (motor and pump are both below the water surface) is in a well casing 450 to 500 feet below ground level.
She said the mayor spent many hours Tuesday trying to find a pump at a location close to Big Water.
Smith, who is director of the state Bureau of Drinking Water and Sanitation, said Wednesday evening that he understood a pump motor had been located and would be shipped by air freight to Salt Lake City Thanksgiving evening.
Until the pump is replaced, the city has two possible temporary sources from which water may be hauled. In the meantime, residents were told to boil water from those or other sources as a precautionary measure, Elizabeth Joseph explained.
The alternate sources are water from a nearby well used by Utah's Department of Fish and Game officials to supply a fish hatchery operation, and sources in Page, Ariz., located about 15 miles away.
Smith said if the water used for the fish hatchery is acceptable drinking water for humans, "then we will allow them (Big Water officials) to haul water" from that well.
Also, he said officials of Big Water have located an Arizona Department of Transportation tanker and tractor in Page, Ariz., to haul water to the Kane County community.
Through Gov. Norm Bangerter's office, Dr. Suzanne Dandoy, Utah Health Department director, requested that Arizona Gov. Rose Mofford's office authorize use of an Arizona transportation department trailer to haul the water to Utah.
"The first tankful of water has already arrived in Big Water. The water will have to be continued to be hauled until the well is back in service," Smith said Wednesday evening.
Smith said he's concerned about the water problem, which could jeopardize the health of residents.
"If they don't get clean drinking water, there's a possibility of spreading all kinds of bacterial diseases associated with unsanitary living conditions," he said.
Smith said people of the area are upset with more than the water situation.
"There also is political unrest. It's a situation of Alex Joseph supporters on one side and non-supporters on the other side," he said.