The water system serving the Comstock is back to normal, with restrictions lifted on washing, showering and flushing as of 5 p.m. Wednesday.
Storey County Emergency Management Director Joe Curtis said they'll probably never know for sure what caused the pipe feeding the siphon where Highway 395 crosses Lakeview Hill to break.
"There were probably some fairly good sized rocks on top of the pipe, but if it happened during construction, who knows," he said.
Nevada Department of Transportation workers recently finished major construction on the highway through that area.
Curtis said he doesn't know what the final cost to the county will be, but that the important thing is it's fixed and, as of Wednesday afternoon, the tanks were refilling.
The leak in the pipe which brings water from Marlette Lake and Hobart Reservoir to the Comstock was discovered by a Nevada Department of Transportation crew Monday afternoon. The damage was two feet into the shoulder about five feet beneath the ground, where the pipe crosses beneath Highway 395.
That forced officials to shut down the system, leaving about 1,100 residents on the Comstock under orders to use no more water than absolutely necessary. But with more than 700,000 gallons of storage in three tanks, the area managed to get through without running out of water.
Welder Donald Heldoor sealed the pipe with a steel patch Tuesday afternoon, but Curtis said it took several hours after the valves were opened again for the water to fill the system all the way to the crest of the hill above Five Mile Reservoir.
Then, Curtis said, they had to flush the system before they could begin refilling the reservoir tanks, which hold water for Virginia City, Silver City and Gold Hill.
The system is an inverted siphon, which uses gravity and vacuum pressure to move the water first down to Lakeview then back up the hill to Virginia City. It was regarded as an engineering marvel when completed in the 1870s.
Some of the piping, however, is original and the pressure in the siphon system has caused a number of ruptures over the years.
• Contact reporter Geoff Dornan at firstname.lastname@example.org or 687-8750.