Water everywhere but none to drink?
South Carolina’s capital city had too much water. Now, officials are racing to make sure it has enough.
A canal that serves as the main source of drinking water for about half of the Columbia water system’s 375,000 customers collapsed in two places following historic rainfall and flooding over the weekend, sending contractors scrambling to build a rock dam to plug the holes while National Guard helicopters dropped giant sandbags in the rushing water.
Water from the canal normally flows directly into the reservoir at the city’s water treatment plant. But with the water level falling because of the levee breach, workers were forced to place orange pumps on the banks of the canal to pump water directly into the reservoir. And if that wasn’t enough, the city had plans to pump water directly from the nearby Broad River.
Officials sought to beat back rampant rumors of an imminent water shortage.
“The system is running and it is running strong,” Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin told reporters.
Meanwhile, Gov. Nikki Haley issued a terse warning to thousands of people in low-lying areas near the coast to “strongly consider evacuating” before a mass of water rumbling toward the ocean floods some places for up to two more weeks. Any mandatory evacuations would be ordered by local officials.