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Shafter without water after a fire burns down local pumphouse

Mitch Borden
Marfa Public Radio
Approximately 30 people currently live in Shafter. The unincorporated community lies between Marfa and Presidio.

Over the weekend, Shafter residents lost running water after an electrical fire burned down a pump house that provided the majority of the town’s water. Officials are working to restore the supply, but that might not happen for at least a week.

The majority of residents in the ghost town of Shafter have relied on a single freshwater well for its water supply for years, but over the weekend a fire burned down a pump house causing the town to run dry. 

The Rio Grande Mining Company, which operates the well, is now working to restore the supply, but that might not happen for at least a week.

On Oct. 30, Shafter resident Ken Sims found out about the fire when a neighbor called asking if he had heard about it. Then workers at the mining company, according to Sims, reached out to tell him the water was out and that it could be out for days or even weeks.

Although Sims was prepared to lose running water, he’s worried about how long it will take to get water flowing in Shafter.

“I have a 1,500-gallon storage tank that I keep full for such emergencies,” Sims explained. “I'm sure I’ll be going through that 1500 gallons before we get more water.”

Residents met with Presidio County officials along with a representative of Rio Grande Mining Company to get an update on the situation. Among those present was Tony Manriquez is the Environmental Specialist for the mine who oversees the community’s water system.

He explained the fire at the pump house was most likely an electrical fire, but so far a specific cause has not been identified. The pump that’s used to draw water from the well is still working, according to Manriquez, but electrical equipment at the surface of the well was damaged and destroyed.

“[The pump] tested well yesterday, it checked out good.” Manriquez went on, “Hoping to get it going early next week.”

The one challenge facing the company’s efforts to get water flowing to Shafter again is finding a high voltage electrician to come out to Shafter to repair the pump. Manriquez says these technicians, who are mostly based in El Paso and the Midland-Odessa area, can sometimes be hard to secure. 

Currently, Rio Grande Mining is working on securing a quote from a couple of electrical companies. As of Tuesday morning, nothing had been finalized, according to Manriquez.

Presidio County Judge Cinderella Guevara visited with residents on Tuesday, along with Manriquez, to check on the situation and offer to bring water to those in need.

“During this outage, if anybody should need anything at anytime day or night just call [my office.]” Judge Guevara said, “It doesn’t matter what time it is so we can get somebody out here and get whatever help you need.”

Shafter residents can also request water or other resources by calling the judge at 432-729-4452.

Mitch Borden is Permian Basin Reporter & Producer at Marfa Public Radio.