It's been a daily occurrence lately for residents of Star Valley and The Knolls subdivision to watch as water is siphoned out of The Knolls' water tank and is trucked off to the water-poor residents of Pine.
That flow was interrupted this week, however, when officials from the Diamond Star Fire District cited Brooke Utilities for drawing too much water out of The Knolls' water storage tank and dipping into the district's fire-suppression supply.
"We don't like the fact that they're taking their water out of the Knolls to their customers in Pine," D-S Fire Chief Gary Hatch said, "but there is absolutely nothing we can do about that."
What the department can do, the chief said, is stop the water company from jeopardizing potential firefighting efforts by tapping into the department's water reserves.
Such was the case Monday.
"When we see all the trucks going in and out of there, we go in and check to see how much is left in our tanks," Hatch said.
Apparently the water company shut its wells down for the evening, because company employees thought their truck driver was finished hauling for the night, Hatch said. The driver, he said, had other plans.
Brooke Utilities President Bob Hardcastle refused to answer questions Thursday regarding the citation and all but one question regarding the health of his many water utilities throughout the Rim country. Brooke operates the water companies in Star Valley which services The Knolls Pine, Strawberry and Mesa del Caballo.
Hatch said the wells at The Knolls produce a little more than 6,000 gallons an hour. During the two-hour trip it takes to complete the Pine water run, the wells have time to recharge.
"I guess the driver decided it was going to be a busy weekend, and decided to haul water all night long," Hatch said. "That's when they got into our storage."
Brooke Utilities was cited, the chief said, and could be fined.
Aside from the run-in with the fire district, Brooke also is facing unhappy customers both on the giving and the receiving end of the water transfers.
Richard Roy said he returned to his home in The Knolls July 10.
"We found a tremendous amount of air in our lines, and a sporadic water supply," Roy said. "I'd jump in the shower, and the water would stop. We'd start a load of dishes, and the water would stop halfway through the cycle. The pressure varies all over the place."
Roy said the most unpleasant experience happened when his wife used the bathroom. When she flushed the toilet, "it damn near blew the top off the tank."
"I don't resent them taking water for Pine ... I'm sure they need it badly," he said. "What I do resent is the effect it's having on my service."
Despite Brooke's efforts, Pine water customers have called the newspaper to report continued outages this week.
Hardcastle said his company has made a pledge to customers not to hurt existing service.
"We are utilizing alternative water sources only as a supplement to the already supplemented water supply for Pine," he said. "We promised our customers in Strawberry that we would not negatively impact our water supplies in their area by transporting water to Pine. Our use of alternative water sources is demonstration of keeping this promise. Thus, the amount of water from these alternative sources varies by daily need and management of the water supply in all of the areas."
Hatch said the water tanks at The Knolls have recharged since Monday, and since then, Brooke Utilities has been able to transport without drastically affecting service to its Star Valley customers.