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Water, Water Nowhere

So the spring weather finally gets me off my duff to fill the basketball hoop base with water. I turn on the water to the outdoor faucets, unkink the hose, and the water gushes--for about 10 seconds. Then: A gurgling sound and...nothing.

Surely, we've messed up our pipes, turned the wrong valve, done something to the House Gods, something that will cost two or three Household Units ($1,000 each).

We open and shut every valve we can find. Still nothing. The water is gone.

Bedeviled by the mystery, we wander outside, whereupon it becomes apparent that we are not alone. In what turns out to be a bizarre coincidence, the loss of water has nothing to do with our decision to turn on our outdoor faucets, but rather with a huge water main break at the Chain Bridge. At this hour, most of Arlington County and a fair chunk of Northwest D.C. are without water.

I spent 40 minutes waiting to get through to the D.C. Water and Sewer Authority emergency line, only to find that they have no clue when water service will be restored.

Amazingly, at this hour, there is not a word on the WASA web site about the break in service. Rather, the site offers this lie: "There are no active workzones at this time."

Isn't it funny how as soon as the water service disappears, you get thirsty? Very thirsty. Parched.

It's at moments like this that the super-prepared security-paranoids out there are smugly turning to their basement full of bottled water. I think we have a half-used bottle of water lying under the back seat of my car, from about 2003, and it's probably mostly backwash, to be totally honest. But it's looking pretty good at this writing.

More later as this liquid emergency develops.

By Marc Fisher |  March 12, 2006; 5:37 PM ET
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Comments

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It was really amazing how hard it was to get information about this. Until 4:30 there was nothing on washingtonpost.com, and then there wasn't much more than statements made by Arlington County officials.

An "Arlington alert" went out through the Arlington emergency management system, and that's about it.

For something this disruptive, I'd think local coverage would be better...

Posted by: Peter | March 12, 2006 6:48 PM

You would think it would have gotten more coverage, but then again, it was a lazy, warm Sunday afternoon. I wasn't even aware anything had happened until about an hour ago.

Posted by: Joseph LeBlanc | March 12, 2006 7:55 PM

For the last hour, I've gotten brown water at extremely low volume. I hope the color is from rust from the pipes they don't ordinarily use.

Good news: I can pee.
Bad news: can't do much else.

Also, according to washingtonpost.com, Arlington does not think my water is safe to drink.

This seems to be a significant public health issue.

So far, Arlington is getting about a B+ for informing people.

Posted by: Peter | March 12, 2006 8:22 PM

I wish the media coverage had been quicker. For awhile, the only information I could find out was from my neighbors, and the only useful information they could tell me was they had the same problem. The first hard news I came across was a posting on the Arlington County GOVERNMENT website. This posting only had a few lines and stated that we should monitor media coverage. Unfortunately, I could not find any media coverage for what seemed like an hour after the posting.

I'll repeat what the previous poster stated, this was/is a significant public health issue story. I wish the local media had picked up the story more quickly instead of being scooped by a county government website.

Posted by: Roland | March 12, 2006 9:04 PM

Well, we just got water back in Ballston- enough to fill the toilet (the excess air coming through the pipes told us it was running again)
looks ok, but smells a lot like chlorine. good to know we shouldn't drink this!

Posted by: Parasaur | March 12, 2006 9:40 PM

Never lost my water here in Crystal City. I didn't know about it until about 8 PM.

Posted by: Phil | March 12, 2006 11:09 PM

I've coped with thish emerjen- emergin- emurgen- this problem by brinking deer -- drinking beer all day.

Posted by: Tom T. | March 12, 2006 11:09 PM

The POST has done an awful job covering this. Every article focuses on Arlington. In fact I just read about how service in Arlington has been restored. Well I don't live in Arlington, and don't have any water at 11PM. Where's the news about what's going on with my water supply. The Post should be talking about the DISTRICT as well. The reporters and the Post completely failed me on this, and there is no justification. Just incompetent reporting.

Posted by: M | March 12, 2006 11:10 PM

To M: I haven't been in the newsroom today, but even from afar, I can tell you that competence is almost certainly not the issue on this. The overwhelmingly likely explanation is that you're reading here--and hearing from every other news organization--an emphasis on Arlington because the Arlington authorities are available and talking, whereas the District folks, in keeping with longstanding practice, are nowhere to be found.

Posted by: Fisher | March 12, 2006 11:38 PM

It's 11:40 and washingtonpost.com now has tomorrow's story online. It says:

"There were no immediate reports of health or fire emergencies that were caused or made worse by the lack of water. However, authorities suggested that, as a precaution, residents who lost all service might consider using bottled or boiled water at first to avoid possible contaminants."

I received the following e-mail alert from Arlington County at 11:15:

"Residents do not need to boil their water -- water testing indicates
the water quality is safe. Residents may notice a brownish color to
the water due to re-pressurization. Simply run cold water until the
water runs clear – plus another minute."

Posted by: Peter | March 12, 2006 11:42 PM

Marc: It may be that the Post had no coverage of the DC side because the DC government was typically silent, but nowhere in the story did your reporters write that. We can put the primary blame for the lack of information on DC, but your reporters should have written in their story that they at least tried to get info from DC but there was no information to be had. Otherwise, it just reads like they only covered it from the point of view of Arlington. I'll amend my comment to argue that DC itself is to blame for the actual lack of information, but I still think the Post's reporters should have done a better, more balanced story.

Posted by: M | March 13, 2006 9:19 AM

You can laugh at prepared people all you want, but we were savoring glass after glass of water last night. Ahhhh!

Posted by: Drinking | March 13, 2006 2:18 PM

My water was shut off by the water company where I live in CT for non-payment of my bill after my husband had been un-employed for eight months after an injury.

It has been off for six weeks. How long did you do without water?

Posted by: mamaho183@hotmail.com | September 15, 2006 8:39 PM

My water was shut off by the water company where I live in CT for non-payment of my bill after my husband had been un-employed for eight months after an injury.

It has been off for six weeks. How long did you do without water?

Posted by: mamaho183@hotmail.com | September 15, 2006 8:40 PM

My water was shut off by the water company where I live in CT for non-payment of my bill after my husband had been un-employed for eight months after an injury.

It has been off for six weeks. How long did you do without water?

Posted by: mamaho183@hotmail.com | September 15, 2006 8:41 PM

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