More busted water pipes stress importance of new system

PRESIDIO — Presidio’s main water line was repaired on December 20, 2020 — but on the morning of December 21, in what’s become a regular occurrence for the city, it burst again. Officials once again declared a boil water notice, and some Presidio residents were again left without water for the better part of a day.

After a day with no water, the boil water notice was finally lifted about a week later. But John Ferguson, Presidio mayor, admits the city is no stranger to busted pipes.

Ferguson attributes the issues to two main factors. First, because the city’s water facilities sit high above its pumping stations, the city needs lots of pressure to move water swiftly through the system. Second, the city’s aging water infrastructure is nearly 30 years old.

“I think the line is just old,” Ferguson said. “These things have their own expiration date, and I think our system is at that age.”

Describing the pipe problems as “a constant battle the city has been fighting for a couple years now,” Ferguson is hoping the problems will end soon. In August, a new water system was approved for the city.

Spiess Construction, the company in charge of that project, would have usually been tasked with fixing yet another broken line. But the company took a break for Christmas and New Years, forcing city workers to go in and fix the pipe themselves.

Joe Portillo, city administrator for Presidio, commented that the installation of the new water pipe system, while not without its hiccups, is going well. With a potential completion date of April or May, construction on the new system looks to be ahead of schedule. Presidio needs the upgrades as soon as possible, he says.

“The installation of the independent line that we are working on now would alleviate the pressures put on the system,” Portillo said in an interview.  It “could solve the problems we are having with frequent busted lines.”

According to Portillo, the new line could eliminate 50 to 60% of all pipe bustings once it is finished. That’s a prospect city officials and residents alike are excited for.

In addition to the new independent pipe, there are plans to refurbish the water tower and upgrade valves. That would allow water leaks to be isolated to certain areas rather than spreading. Right now, Presidio has a number of inoperable valves, so relatively minor leaks, which might be contained to specific areas of the city, instead force shut-offs of water to all areas.

Ronnie Quintana, construction manager for Spiess Construction, said that everything is going smoothly with the project, and his team is about three weeks away from completion of the new 8 inch waterline on 67. City Administrator Portillo describes those upgrades as essentially phase 1 of Presidio’s water project.

This month, the construction crew is expected to start assembling the secondary standpipe, a golf-ball shaped water container that will be able to hold 75,000 gallons.

Lastly, the water project aims to refurbish the water wells in Presidio, which Portillo says are inefficient and energy consuming. With better wells, Portillo thinks Presidio could even save money when it comes to utilities.

Quintana said the new system, when completed, will help water get to the outskirts of town easier. But until the project is finished, Presidio will likely continue to battle busted pipes.