Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Marfa Infrastructure Upgrades Cause City Water Outages; Last Shutoff Today


Because of an almost $300,000 Block Grant from the Texas Department of Agriculture, the city of Marfa has been upgrading dated infrastructure. This has meant city water has been shut off throughout the spring and summer. Today, the city says, is the very last water outage.

The sound of water running from our taps is something we tend to take for granted, that is, unless you live in Marfa.

"Well, the laundromat obviously comes to a screeching halt. Um, the coffee shop, we’re also at a screeching halt," said Jessie Browning, mother of four little girls and owner of Frama Coffee Shop and Tumbleweed Laundry in Marfa.

"I mean, it’s hard to do anything during the day home maintenance as a stay at home mom, if you will, between dishes and laundry. I mean, we use a lot of Purell," Browning says. "I’ve said this before, I like to joke and say, 'This water outage is brought to you by Purell.'"

<br style="text-align: left"> What exactly has been going on? <b>Marfa Mayor Dan Dunlap</b> says the city has been fixing the water lines in downtown Marfa that have been there since 1925 and more specifically, replacing the valves that haven’t worked for years. On Thursday, September 11th, the repairs mean the city’s water is being shut off once again.

"This will be our final valve replacement," Mayor Dunlap says. "Hopefully the weather will cooperate with us because I think there is some weather forecasted."

This timeline, and its uncertainty, makes Joe Williams, president of the Marfa Chamber of Commerce, nervous.

"Thursday doesn’t allow any time for a mistake," Williams says. "Friday people start showing up in Marfa, Texas to enjoy our magic. Gee. There’s a lot of potential for disappointment there if something doesn’t go right."

The last time Marfa water was shut off, it was a day later than originally announced and it lasted from 8 a.m. until after 5 p.m. Restaurants were shut down, hourly workers were sent home, and tourists were left with very few options on where to spend their time and money.

"These poor service people around here, they are really suffering," Williams says. "I wish someone would present [the city] with a bill just give them an idea of what it is costing."

People have asked, why can't the city schedule these outages at night or in the early morning hours?

Mayor Dunlap says, "If you’re talking about working in the dark, which in the winter months you have shorter days, we don’t have the light and if you do, it creates hazards for your workforce. It's just safer. It’s also warmer and when you’re standing waist-deep in water, it’s never very comfortable. Working at night, we’re just not set up for that."

But beyond inconvenience, Browning says she and her husband don’t have further complaints. To them, the water shutoff is a good thing.

"We understand and we’ve talked with my husband at length. The improvements they are making us right now are going to benefit us in the future," Browning says. "When there is a problem or an emergency in the future, the water won’t have to be off to the entire town any more."
At the Chamber, Williams echoes the same sentiment, despite his personal disappointment.

"So, it’s a difficult thing. No one is going to come out of this smelling very good," he says. "It’s just something that has to be done and we just have to bear with their city fathers."

According to Jeff Boyd, the utility supervisor for Marfa, he’s hoping this last water shutoff will be smooth sailing.
"We’ve already uncovered what we need to uncover, so it’s the same old, same old. It should be eight to 12, four hours," he says, adding, "That’s what I’m shooting for...unless there's any unforeseen difficulties."

<i>-Paige Phelps</i>