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Back on Tap: Memphis Water Emergency Trickles to an End


UPDATE: The boil water advisory was lifted Thursday afternoon as a safe level of water pressure has been restored citywide. Residents are advised to flush out their home water systems, including cycling through water and ice from refrigerators and freezers.  


MLGW has stabilized water pressure to safe-enough levels that water quality testing now has begun. Officials say the city has entered the 16-24 hour timeframe for when the boil water advisory could be rescinded for parts or all of the utility’s customers, depending on test results.

On Wednesday, President and CEO J.T. Young once again used a medical analogy to describe the system’s near recovery: “The patient hasn’t yet been discharged [from the hospital], but is about to be.”

Last week’s winter storms wreaked havoc on both the front end of the city's water system -- freezing up wells and slowing pumping stations -- and the back end -- with more than a hundred water mains and likely thousands of residential pipes bursting in the freeze. 

All of Memphis’ pumping stations are now fully operational and 74 percent of wells (as of 6 p.m. Wednesday) are working. 

While water pressure has been largely re-established, the utility is still reporting that water usage is up millions of gallons more than the average, indicating that myriad leaks in houses, commercial buildings or water mains are contributing to significant water waste. 

The utility urges property owners to inspect buildings for broken pipes and report them. 

More than 4,400 customers made emergency service calls during the week of freezing temperatures. 

Nick Newman, Vice President of Operations, says water mains are still being repaired citywide. The storm caused 119 breaks, most of them within the I-240 loop, most involving some of the older infrastructure. 

“After this there will be evaluation to see if there’s some areas that we need to probably look at some main replacement, and other areas that we think are in better shape,” Newman said.

Because there should be enough pressure system-wide, residents who do not yet have water should also contact MLGW. 

MLGW has also suspended water disconnects for nonpayment until further notice.  

The Emergency Hotline number to report broken pipes or other water problems is 528-4465.


Reporting from the gates of Graceland to the balcony of the Lorraine Motel, Christopher's favorite haunt is the intersection of history and cultural change. He is WKNO's News Director and Senior Producer at the University of Memphis' Institute for Public Service Reporting. Join his conversations about the Memphis arts scene on the WKNO Culture Desk Facebook page.