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Hundreds Without Water Following Cold Snap

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Complaints about frozen water meters and pipes in Santa Fe increased sharply during the past week as temperatures dropped.

Santa Fe workers have responded to hundreds of calls from residents with no water service over just the past two days. And the city is now offering to let anyone without water to come to city facilities for a shower.

On Friday, workers started the day with around 150 work orders to attend to, Public Utilities director Brian Snyder said. There were 130 work orders and three water main breaks on Thursday.

Snyder couldn’t immediately provide numbers for the entire week.

The city has been responsible for taking care of the problem in about half the cases, with workers usually thawing or replacing frozen infrastructure.

The weather in Santa Fe has been frigid for most of the week. The temperature dropped to minus 6 before dawn on Sunday, and Tuesday’s early hours saw a low of 1 below zero, according to the National Weather Service. Monday’s high in Santa Fe of 21 degrees set a new record for the coldest high on that date.

Temperatures are expected to rise this weekend, and Snyder said he hopes things will start to calm down.

The recent problems haven’t been as bad as an outbreak of frozen water meters and pipes in 2008 that generated thousands of complaints and left some people without water for weeks.

At the time, some residents alleged that recently installed city water meters were behind the problems. However, city officials blamed brutally cold weather.

Snyder attributed the current problems to ongoing freezing temperatures combined with factors such as meter location – some meters are in places that don’t get much sunshine – or customer usage patterns. “Is water going through meters to keep them from freezing?” Snyder said.

“It’s not an exact science,” he admitted. Homeowners have been advised to keep faucets dripping to help prevent a freeze.

Currently, the city is trying to respond to calls within 24 hours, though not everybody has been that lucky. Snyder said extra workers have been brought in to help out and crews are working 14-16 hour days.

City officials announced Friday afternoon that Santa Fe’s public recreation facilities will be available to residents without water who “need water for health and personal hygiene uses.”

People can visit the Genoveva Chavez Community Center at 3221 Rodeo Road; Fort Marcy Recreation Complex at 490 Bishop’s Lodge Road; and Salvador Perez Recreation Complex at 601 Alta Vista.

Residents should call 955-4333 if they have a water emergency. The city also has a list of tips to prevent or thaw frozen pipes at www.santafenm.gov. Click on “Frozen Water Services” on the left-hand side of the page.

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