A broken water main near Lakeview Hill has severed the supply of water to the Comstock, prompting concerns about fire suppression and calls for residents to conserve water.
The break in the 12-inch water main that supplies water from Marlette Lake to Virginia City, Silver City and Gold Hill was discovered Monday in the northbound lanes of Highway 395 near Lakeview Hill by officials from the Nevada Department of Transportation.
"We are draining the line and NDOT will be cutting some of the pavement beginning at 7 a.m. so we can determine exactly where the break is," Storey County Public Works Director Richard Bacus said.
The pipe is part of the 140-year-old water system that carries water from Marlette Lake above Lake Tahoe through Hobart Reservoir to Virginia City and Carson City. The system is Virginia City's only source of domestic water. Bacus said there is a chance that section of pipe was replaced in the 1950s, but without seeing it there is no way to tell.
If the break is on the shoulder of the highway, Bacus said water could be restored late Tuesday night. However, if the break is under the highway, it will be several days before service is restored because the pavement on Highway 395 will have to be cut to allow access to the main, according to Bacus.
In the meantime, Storey County Emergency Management Director Joe Curtis is ordering residents to conserve water.
"We don't know what the nature of the damage is, so it's going to be really important to conserve water. This is not a 'please do it' thing. People need to take this seriously or we may get to the point where we are trucking in water," Curtis said.
The communities' water is stored in several tanks throughout town, the water levels and size of the tanks were not available Monday night.
Marshall McBride, whose family owns the Bucket of Blood Saloon in Virginia City, said the conservation will have minimal effects on the business.
"This time of year is kind of slow so if it was going to happen, this is a good time. I think we have enough water on hand to make it through the next couple of days," McBride said.
As for the saloon, McBride said they will just have to manage.
"I guess we'll just have to pour more beer," he said.
In addition to affecting drinking and general use water, the break also affects the fire systems.
According to Curtis, in the event of a structure fire a system of water tenders will be set up to shuttle water from one of two locations, the Virginia City Highlands, which uses a well system, or up the hill from Mound House.
According to the 2000 Census, there are approximately 1,100 people living in the affected communities.
What it means
Residents and businesses in Virginia City, Gold Hill and Silver City are asked to severely cut back on their use of water as no water is being supplied to the system.
The emergency may remain in effect for the next two to three days
Residents are asked:
• not to use washing machines or dishwashers
• use bottled drinking water when possible
• curtail use of shower and bath facilities
• minimize toilet use and flushing
• do not wash cars or use water for outdoor cleanup
• Contact reporter Jarid Shipley at email@example.com or 881-1217.