An underground electrical fire on March 19 at the Warm Springs Indian Reservation disabled the reservation's water treatment plant, prompting the tribes' utilities department to issue an emergency water conservation notice to users in the agency area, including Upper Dry Creek, Sunnyside, Wolfe Point and the Kah-Nee-Ta Hamlets.
Water conservation strategies include turning off running water while cleaning dishes and brushing teeth, taking fewer and shorter showers or baths and making sure outside water is turned off. The original announcement said repairs could take up to two months, but officials have been more optimistic since, and stated that it could be running in a matter of weeks.
"It wasn't as devastating as I thought, because of the smoke and all that. That thing was arcing off for almost an hour before PP&L (Pacific Power and Light, also known as Pacific Power) was able to get it shut off," Warm Springs Emergency Manager Dan Martinez told KTVZ.
Tribal officials began delivering water on Saturday, and portable toilets, showers and drinking water are offered at the reservation's former elementary school. The reservation's aging water system has been struggling for years, forcing tribal leaders to issue boil notices and deal with broken pipes.
Warm Springs is set to receive some of the $3.5 billion in federal funds from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act signed into law in November. Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley said back in October that the top projects on the list are Warm Springs' dry creek water treatment plant, repairing a collapsed sewer main and upgrading the Shitike Creek water main. Long-term water system upgrades can take years to plan, let alone complete.
“So it wasn't as devastating as I thought, because of the smoke and all that. That thing was arcing off for almost an hour before PP&L (Pacific Power and Light) was able to get it shut off."—Dan Martineztweet this
Currently the CTOWS is trying to stay ahead of demand, intending to keep a supply of at least 20 to 30 days of water. Water users south of Shitike Creek are in good shape, according to KWSO, but 80% of Warm Springs' residents will be affected.
The reservation is taking water donations and accepting gift cards for grocery stores where people can buy water. Those looking to donate are asked to call 541-647-9001. Donations can be dropped off at the Emergency Management Services office at 1116 Wasco Street in Warm Springs.