Officials were hopeful that the pipe would be repaired by late Wednesday. With that line back in service, the MWD could begin service to about one-third of the North San Fernando Valley customers, officials said.
Only about 1% of all the water used by Southern Californians daily is actually ingested. Water officials say that about half of all water used ends up watering lawns and flower beds. An additional 30% to 40% goes to washing people, clothes and dishes. And about 10% is simply lost, much of it running down the drain while users wait for hot water to come up.
Earthquakes create an especially dangerous set of conditions that can contaminate water supplies with bacteria and viruses that can lead to everything from a simple stomachache to life-threatening diseases such as cholera, said Mark Beuhler, director of water quality for the MWD.
Temblors can break underground sewage pipes as well as potable water mains. If water pressure drops, sewage can seep into the water lines, Beuhler said. Complicating the problem is the fact that breaks are difficult to pinpoint because they are underground. As a result, he said, predicting which homes may be getting contaminated water "is like Russian roulette."
That's why officials are recommending water sterilization for residents of vast areas of the city. For those with a water supply, but of questionable quality, water officials give the following advice: Boil water for at least five minutes or use eight drops of unscented household bleach per gallon if the water is clear. If the water is cloudy, 16 drops of bleach per gallon of water should be used. Either way, let the mixture sit for 30 minutes before drinking.
Otherwise, DWP tankers filled with potable water will be at the following high schools from 5 a.m. to midnight: Chatsworth, Granada Hills, Kennedy, Sylmar, Cleveland, Taft, El Camino Real and Canoga Park. Tanker trucks are also dispensing water at Chatsworth Convalescent Home and Olive View-UCLA Medical Center. Ice will be available from 11:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. at Chatsworth, Granada Hills, Kennedy and Sylmar high schools.
Customers should bring their own containers. There is no limit on how much water they can receive because the trucks are constantly refilling and returning to the sites.
Water service for tens of thousands of San Fernando Valley residents could be a week away. In the meantime, water officials offer these tips on how to cope:
* Check to see if there is still water in your water heater, advises Matt Puffer of the Metropolitan Water District. There could be 50 gallons or more of potable water still there. "That can go a long way if you're just using it for drinking and washing your face," said Jerry Gewe of the Department of Water and Power.
* Pool owners can use that water to refill toilets, though they should not drink it because of all the chemicals typically present, officials said.
* If there is no water available for filling toilets, Puffer said, constructing a chemical commode is simple. He suggests lining a 5-gallon bucket with two plastic trash or garbage bags. After using, toss in a handful of powered laundry detergent to keep down odors. And if you only need to urinate, Puffer said, "you can always just head for the rose bushes."
* Use paper cups and plates to eliminate dish washing, "or just eat out at McDonald's a little more often," Gewe said.
* If you suspect pipes are broken, turn off the water at the meter so there is no flooding when water returns.
* When the water does return, Puffer said, be sure to allow it to run for a while to clear out sediment in the pipes.