AMES, Iowa – Residents lined up for bottled water at sites throughout Ames on Thursday, a day after historic flooding caused pipe breaks that left the college town of 55,000 without drinking water.
City officials set up five distribution sites and urged people to use as little water as possible until eight broken lines are repaired and the water system is restored. Residents can drink water if they boil it, but officials implored them to limit such use because efforts to fill water towers and flush the system will be slowed unless people turn off the taps.
Flooding in Ames came after three nights of heavy rain caused creeks and rivers in central Iowa to swell. Hundreds of residents have had to leave their homes in Ames, Des Moines and Colfax, and a 16-year-old girl was killed when a flooded creek swept her car off a road near Des Moines.
Ames, home to Iowa State University, shut down its water system after two large pipes broke beneath flooded areas. Crews then found six smaller breaks in lines. The leaks drained the city’s water towers, raising the chance of contamination and reducing water supply to a trickle in some areas.
Officials told residents not use water outside and to only use what they absolutely had to for flushing toilets and personal hygiene.
Many restaurants and coffee shops were closed Thursday after the city asked them to voluntarily shut down to help conserve water and protect customers from possible bacterial contamination.
Ames’ drinking water likely won’t be available until early next week.