Major water main break in Gallup prompts emergency declaration

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GALLUP, N.M. – A water pipeline feeding close to 75% of Gallup is shut down right now. That’s after a major water main feed line break this week.

City officials told KOB 4 everyone living in Gallup will have to work together to make up for the loss. They asked for cooperation and patience while crews repair the crucial water source and said no one is losing water access. The city is temporarily pulling water from other sources, but that supply is limited.

One viewer shared a video he took while driving a few miles north of Gallup on US 491 Wednesday morning. From the side of the road, it looked like a small plume of smoke. A second shot up close showed water forcefully gushing and shooting several feet into the air.

“We have some wells that are being drilled and the well driller actually scraped the top of the main water pipe that was coming into Gallup,” said Adrian Marrufo, the acting director of water and wastewater for the city.

He went on to say that scrape caused the pipeline to hemorrhage three million gallons of water in just 30 minutes before crews got the break under control.

“We have been made aware that people are buying waters off the shelf, and we certainly understand that, but I think the most important thing that they can do is conserve water and not water outside,” City Manager Maryann Ustick said.

The city issued emergency water use restrictions Wednesday to recoup the water loss, forbidding residents from watering things like gardens and lawns outdoors, also washing their cars at home. They also asked residents to take shorter showers, only run full loads of laundry, and fill their toilet tanks to save water.

“We’re expecting the repair parts to come in sometime tomorrow, either morning or afternoon into Albuquerque,” Marrufo said. “We’ve had them shipped from Houston.”

He said if everything goes well, he hopes water service will be restored by Saturday morning. But even after repairs are made, the city manager said water use restrictions will likely remain in place for a few more days.

“We are making contingency plans, should the repairs not be successful or take longer than we expect, and we will keep the community apprised of that,” Ustick said. “But right now, the important thing is for them to abide by these emergency use restrictions and not panic.”

City officials said the last time they had to make an emergency declaration like this was in 2021, due to repairs on a 16” water main break. This one is nearly twice that size at 30” and is more complicated because it feeds directly into the city.