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Because we have not experienced such frighteningly cold temperatures and certainly not such temperatures over such a long period of time, we are not accustomed to having serious water problems associated with the weather.

Put another way, faced with bone-chilling cold, we can throw on another sweater and otherwise layer, layer, layer, but the water lines that go here and there under streets, across yards, under houses and beneath sinks and behind tubs, etc., cannot to a large degree bundle up.

Yes, there are ways to wrap and insulate some of those, and you are a conscientious homeowner if you do such a thing, but it's the lines you can't get to that cause the most problems.

Last week, as many were looking at the forecast and counting the days until sunshine and warmth returned, drinking water was wasting away. Leaks, broken pipes and water left running to avoid burst pipes were part of the reason that the water pressure was dropping, and to critical levels in some places, according to Liberty Utilities, the water service that provides water to Pine Bluff residents and businesses.

The utility said it also had a piece of equipment go down, which contributed to the low pressure.

At a house, low pressure can mean waiting longer to fill up a coffee pot or a tub for a bath.

But on an industrial level, it can mean chaos. At Jefferson Regional hospital, water is needed for the boilers that provide heat to the buildings. That equation is pretty simple. No water equals no heat. Consequently, water had to be trucked in and pumped into the boiler system to keep the heat going.

The hospital has had to take other extraordinary measures, such as canceling scheduled surgeries for the time being.

At UAPB, the same situation arose, with heat falling off in the student living areas, eventually forcing the university to transport students to hotels.

Liberty has, by all accounts, been aggressively working on the problem. It has also asked residents to keep an eye out for leaks, which is apparently where most of the issue lies, as in there's more going out of the system than can be pumped into it. Hence, the drop in pressure.

As the weather warms, broken water pipes will likely become more apparent, so perhaps this problem will be short-lived.

For those who would like to lay the blame for this at Liberty's feet, it's worth noting that numerous water companies around the state are having the same problem as we are. Perhaps there is a lesson they can all learn from that. But it is a lesson that will have to be remembered for a long time. Monday morning's low temperature broke a record that had been solidly in place for more than 116 years.


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