A broken water main left many homeowners in East Verde Estates without water Friday afternoon, before Brooke Utilities crews fixed the broken pipe.
The appearance of a soggy hole alongside the main dirt road through the 160-home community solved a vexing four-day mystery, as water use in the quiet settlement on the banks of the East Verde River rose inexplicably.
Baffled water company officials imposed a Level 4 conservation alert and started checking water meters in the lead-up to the Thanksgiving holiday, when the many retirees and second-home owners in the community have visitors.
As the 40,000-gallon storage tank serving the community began to empty, company managers scrambled for an explanation.
“It was very weird,” said spokeswoman Myndi Brogdon of the seeming surge in water consumption at a time when no one was watering their landscaping. “When it started, it didn’t make sense to us, so we were out looking at meters, looking for a leak.”
But it took days for the water from the leak in a four-inch water main buried about seven feet down to work its way to the surface. The region has so far gotten less than half its normal allotment of rain, with only trace amounts in the past several months. As a result, the dry dirt soaked up the water for days.
Once the water reached the surface under the road alongside the community’s small clubhouse, crews shut down water to most of the community to work on the leak.
Brogdon said the pipe was originally placed about two feet underground in about 1996 by the company that preceded Brooke. However, the pipe became more deeply buried as a result of work on the road.
Crews dug down to uncover the four-inch concrete/asbestos pipe to find that a single large, pointed rock had pressed a hole in the pipe. Brogdon speculated that the pressure of the overlying dirt had over the years simply pressed the tip of the rock through the pipe.
Brogdon said although lighter, stronger water pipes now exist, the use of pipes with some asbestos in the mix pose no health threat to water users and are approved for continued use by the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality.
Crews then used a metal clamp to seal off the small hole in the pipe, said Brogdon.
The conservation level then dropped rapidly down to Level 1 as the community’s three wells refilled the storage tank.