SANTA RITA, Guam — For the second time in two weekends, thousands of Guam residents are without water because of heavy rains and water treatment slowdowns at the U.S. Navy-controlled Fena Reservoir, local leaders and Navy officials said Monday.
The water shortage inside homes and businesses follows nearly 2 inches of rainfall over the weekend, a situation that has become routine during the rainy season for the growing population in the southern part of the island, according to local leaders.
The heavy rains cause mud and debris to run into the Fena reservoir, said Navy spokesman Lt. Donnell Evans. That makes it much harder for the Navy’s water plant to filter and treat water to drinkable standards, he said Monday.
As a result, the water to many homes and businesses in Agat, Santa Rita and Sinifa was turned off Saturday afternoon, according to Guam Waterworks Authority spokeswoman Heidi Ballendorf. Water to Navy facilities and housing areas was not affected, Evans said.
As of Monday afternoon, it was unclear when service would be fully restored, Ballendorf and Evans said. Earlier Monday, GWA rerouted water to dry homes and businesses in Santa Rita and Agat, but that supply was cut off around 3 p.m., she said.
“These things really can’t be helped,” Ballendorf said. “The rainy season is coming up, and demand has increased down there.”
GWA spends more than $3 million each year to buy about 5 million gallons of water each day from the Navy reservoir. GWA is responsible for delivering the water into local homes and businesses.
When the supply gets cut, GWA puts water tanker trucks in the towns and encourages residents to conserve. The water authority also can reroute some water from other parts of the island to the south, Ballendorf said.
Santa Rita Mayor Joseph C. Wesley said the growing population in his town of 7,600 and in surrounding towns has worsened the situation.
“This problem has been happening so long,” he said Monday morning. “Both the military and civilian … we need to upgrade our lines.”
Further frustration stems from short notice: The Navy gave only 30 minutes notice on Saturday that the pipes were going dry, said Margie Salas, the administrative assistant for the Agat mayor’s office.
“How are people of Agat dealing with this? Not very good,” she said early Monday morning. “We can’t say it’s a nice day.”
Many of Agat’s 6,000 residents are handicapped or senior citizens, Salas said.
Salas said she doesn’t blame the Navy for the system’s poor performance. She just wishes her residents could have more notice next time so they can stock up on water supplies.
“The sun is coming out,” Salas said with hope, though rain was predicted for the rest of the week. “We hope for good news soon. We’ve gone through this [before]. This is what our island is about.”