When temperatures drop into the teens, the first thing many homeowners do is turn on their faucets to keep pipes from freezing.
But in some Eastern Kentucky counties, authorities are begging people not to do that because of serious water shortages that have left many people with no water at all.
Martin County Water District announced Monday that it would be shutting off water between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m. because of “high water usage, busted meters, etc.” But some people have had no water at all, including about 1,000 on Friday afternoon.
Perry County and Clay County have also had residents going without water.
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Customers of the Manchester Water Department in Clay County have been experiencing water problems for more than a week.
Debbie Bowling, of Oneida in Clay County, said Saturday marked a week that her home had not had water.
“It’s awful,” she said. “It’s getting old.”
The situation is improving, said Brian Jackson, assistant director for emergency management in Clay County.
Jackson said about 1,500 Clay County residents have had water shortages over the past week because of broken water lines and a drain on the county water supply as many residents kept water flowing in their homes to prevent frozen pipes.
“We’re in much better shape,” Jackson said Saturday afternoon. “Water has been restored to most customers but pressure is still low in some areas.”
Clay County Emergency Management posted on Facebook late Saturday afternoon, saying the Manchester Water Department had reported that all customers should have water service. Anyone who didn’t was asked to make sure their lines or meter hadn’t frozen.
Bowling said she lives on a hillside, which she thinks has contributed to the delay in getting her water back.
Jackson said emergency officials were keeping a close eye on temperatures this weekend in hopes of avoiding a repeat problem.
As water was being restored to more and more residents, the water department asked that people continue to conserve water so holding tanks could fill.
Even though temperatures were again dropping well below freezing on Friday night, they asked customers not to allow their water to drip or run in an attempt to prevent frozen pipes.
“Please take necessary precautions to assist in restoring water to everyone,” the Manchester Water Department said through the emergency management Facebook page on Thursday.
Jackson said local government has distributed bottled water to many residents during the shortages.
Bowling said she’d been able to get two 24-packs of bottled water at the Oneida Fire Department, her husband has been hauling water from a spring, and she’s made the drive to First National Bank in Manchester, where water was being distributed.
Bowling said her family has also taken water to elderly neighbors who were unable to get it for themselves. She said she saw people filling barrels from a river nearby last weekend.
Bowling said she’s been taking clothes to the coin-operated laundry and bringing in 5-gallon buckets of water to flush the toilet.
“We’ve just been roughing it,” she said.
In Perry County, numerous communities were under a boil-water advisory, but residents took to Facebook on Saturday to complain that they had no water to boil.
Brittanie Campbell, of Krypton, said her family had been without water since Tuesday.
“I have three little kids that don’t understand the whole no-water concept,” she said. “I can’t even tell you how many gallons of water we have used.”
She said she’s tried to be patient and appreciates the hard work put in by city employees, but Campbell acknowledged that it’s been frustrating, especially since she said the time for when she was told water would be back on has kept getting pushed back.
The city of Hazard, which supplies water to about 9,000 households in Perry County, declared a water emergency last Sunday, saying the city had repaired more than 10 major waterline breaks between Dec. 27 and Jan. 7.
“The single most important factor causing the recent water outages for customers is the problem of unnecessary use of water during periods of cold weather,” the city said in a Facebook post. “Homeowners should not run faucets continuously during periods of cold weather. If you have had freeze-ups before, and if you feel it is absolutely necessary to prevent freezing of pipes, you should reduce the flow from a single faucet to a slow continuous drip, but only during periods when water is not otherwise being used in the household.”
City engineer Hank Spaulding explained in the post that “when a significant number of the 9,000 customers run faucets continuously, even at low flow levels, the resulting extra demand quickly exceeds the water plant’s excess capacity and rapidly depletes the system’s storage capacity causing outages.”
Joe Tapio, who works for the city’s water distribution system, said Saturday that the situation is improving, but with a cold front on the way, that could change.
“We are starting to supply people,” he said. “We are gaining.”
State Rep. Chris Harris, D-Forest Hills, who represents Martin County and part of Pike County, posted an update on Facebook Saturday morning that said 3,000 customers of Hazard Water Works were without water.
And in Martin County, the water woes continued as well.
“The line from Kermit (W.Va.) that was supplying our water system some water is broken in the river crossing,” the Martin County Water District said in a Facebook post at midday Saturday. “It has been shut off. We are currently getting some water from Mountain Water but it is going to take a little while to get it to our customers.
“We are also taking all the water we can get from Prestonsburg.”
Harris’ post stated that 1,300 customers were without water in Martin County Saturday morning, and the river was too high to repair the break in the Tug Fork.