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After running out of water in March, Rawlins faces more water shortages

Downtown Rawlins in the distance. Row of buildings and trees in the distance.
Vasiliymeshko, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
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The City of Rawlins is enforcing water restrictions as of last week, due to major water shortages. According to the city, only 25 percent of water from typical summer use is coming into the treatment plant daily.

Mira Miller, community relations spokesperson for the City of Rawlins, said the restrictions are to deter continuing shortfall in water supply – this includes watering lawns just once a week.

“We're not doing this just you know, because we're a little bit worried or we just want to be a pain,” Miller said. “We're doing this because we're concerned about life, and health and safety.”

These restrictions come about two months after another water shortage in early March. For seven days the nearly 9,000 residents of Rawlins were under a boil water advisory, and 40 percent of residents did not have water.

The city says it was due to a “catastrophic failure” of its water delivery systems. Rawlins gets its water from a nearby spring – but the mode of that delivery is more than 100 years old.

“It looks like our infrastructure is so fragile that it's gonna be a $15 to $20 million project to repair the infrastructure,” Miller, said. “Basically from town and the treatment plant, out to the water infrastructure.”

Much of the pipe in the main water collection system is made out of wood. Work to replace that pipe began this winter and is still in the process.

A true fix to rebuild the infrastructure iwould require $20 million and up to five years.

If the current water restrictions are not followed the city expects to run out of water by mid-June.

Caitlin Tan is the Energy and Natural Resources reporter based in Sublette County, Wyoming. Since graduating from the University of Wyoming in 2017, she’s reported on salmon in Alaska, folkways in Appalachia and helped produce 'All Things Considered' in Washington D.C. She formerly co-hosted the podcast ‘Inside Appalachia.' You can typically find her outside in the mountains with her two dogs.
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