No sprinklers, no car washes: Alabama city orders customers to limit water use because of leaking pipe

Published 6:02 am Monday, June 21, 2021

Tuscaloosa is ordering most of its water customers to use less, saying a leak in a key water line is reducing how much water it can pump out.

Mayor Walt Maddox on Sunday ordered conservation measures for areas south of the Black Warrior River, including the University of Alabama, the Mercedes-Benz assembly plant and four rural water systems outside the city limits.

City officials believe pipes that carry untreated water from Lake Tuscaloosa to a water treatment plant are leaking somewhere along a 2-mile (3-kilometer) stretch. But floodwaters from Tropical Storm Claudette are covering much of the low-lying areas where the pipes run.

Maddox said at a televised news conference that it could be several days before workers can find the leak. Water treatment capacity has fallen from 40 million gallons (150 million liters) a day to 22 million gallons (83 million liters), the mayor said.

He ordered people to turn off sprinkler systems, not wash cars, not wash pavement and not fill swimming pools until further notice.

“That should sustain us with water conservation,” he said.

Maddox said storage tanks are full and customers shouldn’t see any difference in pressure at home right now. No boil-water notice was issued. However, he warned things could get worse if the leaking pipe collapses or the area had a major fire.

“We don’t want to be alarmist, but we don’t want to sugar-coat it and say all is well,” Maddox said.