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Updated: Water is restored and Boil Water Advisories have been lifted for all as Asheville city officials organize an independent review of their response to the holiday outage.

A firefigher helps fill a gallon jug with non-potable water in front of a red fire jug. Several people are waiting in line.
Eric & Carol Norris
Buncombe County
Residents wait in line for non-potable water, which available between 8 and 5 at Woodfin, W. Buncombe, and Enka-Candler #2 fire stations. Residents must bring their own container for non-potable water.

Have you or your business affected by the Asheville area water outages? Share your experiences by recording a voice memo or emailing voices@bpr.org.

Updated 1/4/2023 1 p.m.
Asheville city officials say water service is back for all of its customers, including those in the western Buncombe County service area. All Boil Water Advisories have also been lifted, according to a statement released Wednesday morning:

"The City of Asheville is pleased to announce water has been restored in the western Buncombe County service area and the Boil Water Advisory for this area will be lifted as of 12 p.m. today. Laboratory results have confirmed that the water supply is free from contaminants and is safe to consume.

The city says customers may still experience discolored or cloudy water even after the lift. Testing has shown no bacterial contamination even in discolored water samples. Find out more: Discolored Water & Flushing Guidelines

Officials say crews remain in the field removing air from lines and expect fluctuations in pressure to resolve by the end of the day. Customers still experiencing fluctuations in pressure or water are asked to call the Water Department customer service line at 828-251-1122.

Following the City of Asheville’s announcement that water has been restored and the boil water advisory has been lifted, Buncombe County announced it will suspend water distribution operations at 5 p.m. Wednesday. The closure includes both locations at West Buncombe Fire Department and Enka-Candler Station #2.

“We are grateful to our partners at our fire stations and our volunteers who truly embodied the One Buncombe spirit and worked so quickly to connect our residents to water resources during this time,” said Taylor Jones, Director of Buncombe County Emergency Services.

On Tuesday, Asheville, Mayor Esther Manheimer announced they are putting together an independent review committee to study the city’s response to the holiday water outage and make recommendations going forward. The mayor revealed more details about the committee during the Buncombe County commissioner’s meeting. “The idea would be for this committee to move swiftly and give us a 30-day report," said Manheimer. "A sort of 'after-action' if you will, in terms of what happened, and then a longer term - maybe a 90-day report of recommendations around capital needs, communications, emergency response, if there are any issues there. So just kind of a full set of recommendations.”

Updated 1/4/2023 8 a.m.
City officials say water service has been fully restored to south Asheville and they are hopeful water will be restored in parts of the city's western service area over the next 48 hours. In a briefing Tuesday afternoon, Mayor Esther Manheimer sympathized with people upset about inconsistent communications from the city about the problems.

“As you know, we work with AVL Alerts, but what we’ve learned through this process is that the communication expectations have not been met and we need to do a better job,” said Manheimer.

Manheimer said City Council will put together a multi-disciplinary committee to study what happened and make recommendations going forward.

“What that means is you’re going to be looking at a committee that knows a lot about water infrastructure and water delivery services, sort of the engineering aspects of it, but also folks representing impacted customers, whether residential customers or business customers. I’m personally also interested in seeing folks who can handle crisis communications and crisis response,” said Manheimer.

The proposed review committee will be on the agenda at City Council’s January 10 meeting.

Water Services Director David Melton said people living in Asheville’s western reaches are still affected by the outage as large storage tanks are refilled.

According to the City, areas serviced by this last large tank include:

  • Challedon neighborhood
  • Erwin High School Area 
  • Mt. Carmel  
  • Monte Vista Rd and surrounding areas 
  • Dogwood Rd and surrounding areas 

A Boil Water Advisory remains in effect for the western service area where water has been restored. You can check the status of Boil Water Advisories here.

The City and its partners continue to offer water for drinking and flushing toilets. Residents can request water deliveries by calling the Water Resources Customer Service line at 251-1122 between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.

Residents should also report water outages and leaks by calling the Water Customer Service at 251-1122, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The YMCA of Western North Carolina continues to provide facilities for showers at all of their locations near Asheville.

More than 38,000 people were impacted by the water outage which began on Christmas Eve.

BPR's Matt Peiken contributed to this update.

Updated 1/3/2023 1 p.m.

The City of Asheville has announced it will hold a Water Service Update briefing at 4:00 p.m. today, Tuesday, January 3. Check the Asheville City Government Facebook and YouTube channel for a live broadcast.

Updated 1/2/2023 3 p.m.

All taps are flowing in the City of Asheville’s southern service area, according to an update released Monday afternoon. This includes the Cliffs at Walnut Cove which was the last area to come back into service. All Boil Water Advisories in the service area have been lifted.

City officials say the stabilized system pressure in the south will help those in the west still waiting for water service to be restored, specifically the higher elevation areas including Candler Knob and Spivey Mountain area. As seen across the system, residents in those areas should expect service and pressure fluctuations as full service is restored. The western service area where water has been restored remains under a Boil Water Advisory. 

Check the City’s service restoration map here.

Asheville's outage delays Buncombe County's return to school
Asheville’s water outages and high number of boil water advisories prompted Buncombe County schools to switch to remote learning on Monday. A notice sent out by the school system said officials will continue to monitor the situation going forward.

Water Delivery available January  2
According to the city, water delivery will continue on Jan. 2 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Residents are asked to call Water Customer Service at 251-1122, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. to report outages and make requests for water.

Non-Potable Water and Drinking Water Still Available; Woodfin Location Closing 

Buncombe county continues to offer non-potable water and drinking water at three fire stations from 8 a.m. and 5 p.m.: West Buncombe, Enka-Candler Station #2, and Woodfin Fire Station. The Woodfin location, however, will be ceasing operations after 5 p.m. Monday. You can find more information at Buncombe County’s website.

Updated 1/1/2023 5:30 p.m.

After nearly a week without water, more Asheville residents are seeing their services restored but the City says it may take a couple more days for the system to be fully operational.

According to a press release issued Sunday by the City of Asheville, water is now flowing through the taps for the majority of the southern area. However, higher elevations like the Walnut Cove subdivision, is still largely without service.

Those elevations are also affecting communities in the West, including residences in Spivey Mountain and Candler Knob. The City says it may take several days for water to be restored there.

Residents can check the City’s service restoration map here.

Saturday, the City announced free non-potable water deliveries for residents. Non-potable water is non-drinkable, but can be used for flushing toilets. Residents can request drinking and non-potable water by calling the Water Customer Service at 251-1122, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Use this line to also report leaks and outages.

The Boil Water Advisory has been lifted in most of South Asheville, except for the Cliffs at Walnut Cove Subdivision. Residents can enter their address here to see if their neighborhood is still under a Boil Water Advisory.

The City advises residents to not flush water lines unless water is cloudy or discolored.

“In the case of cloudy or discolored water, flush only cold water lines. If the cloudy or discolored water does not clear up after 5 minutes of flushing, please be patient and wait an hour before flushing again. Water conservation is still needed where possible to help neighbors in western Buncombe County return to service. Customers can also call 828-251-1122 with questions regarding flushing during this event.”

On Saturday, the City announced that the YMCA of Western North Carolina is providing shower facilities at all of their locations near Asheville. YMCA locations can be found online here.

Updated 12/31 5 p.m.

·Asheville city officials held an afternoon press briefing on Saturday and along with an update, answered a menu of questions centered around the continued delay in getting water restored to all residents.

You can watch the briefing https://www.youtube.com/user/CityofAsheville

Officials say lower elevations in the south and western portions of Buncombe County are getting water although there will be fluctuations in water pressure and intermittent loss of water as lines continue to pressurize. Regarding the western portion of Buncombe County, the greatest challenge will continue to be moving water to higher elevations. Portions of this area have been out of service since Thursday. And like the areas in the south, the same process has to be done coupled with the challenge of moving water uphill. Higher elevations such as Spivey Mountain and Candler Knob will continue to be restored over the next 2-3 days.

You can see the latest updates on the Service Restoration Progress Map

The city apologized for a mistake in yesterday’s service map that indicated Royal Pines, Weston Road and the Brookwood Areas were back in service. These areas were not back in service yesterday.

Access to water for those in need
Water delivery to those in need will continue throughout the weekend.
Starting Saturday, December 31, residents who are not able to acquire water themselves can call water resources customer service at 828-251-1122 to request delivery. City of Asheville Water Department customer service will be staffed Saturday and Sunday (9 a.m. to 5 p.m.) to answer your calls. Delivery is available for drinking, personal hygiene, flushing toilets and any other sanitation needs and can be delivered to you.

YMCA is offering showers: All seven YMCA locations that are part of the YMCA of Western North Carolina system are open tomorrow/Sundayfrom 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. for individuals that do not have water and need to shower. YMCA locations can be found online here. The City of Asheville greatly appreciates this partnership from the YMCA.

Buncombe County offering non-potable water: Beginning at 8 a.m. on Sunday, Jan. 1, 2023, non-potable water and drinking water will be available at three fire stations: West Buncombe, Enka-Candler Station #2, and Woodfin Fire Station. You can find more information at Buncombe County’s website.

Updated 12/31 1 p.m.

Water Resources for the weekend

Asheville Fire Department staff will continue to deliver water throughout the weekend to those in need. Residents who are not able to acquire drinking water themselves can call water resources customer service at 828-251-1122 to request delivery. City of Asheville Water Department customer service will be staffed Saturday and Sunday to answer calls. 

According to the city, over 12-hundred people have been delivered drinking water through the efforts of staff in the Fire department, Public Works, Development Services Department, Parks and Recreation, Buncombe County Emergency Management and Buncombe County Fire Departments.

Check out the Service Restoration Progress Map to see active water service restoration areas in progress. The city says customers within these areas may still experience fluctuating service as the water system returns to normal.

Updated 12/30 4:30 p.m.

As many Asheville residents continue to wait for water restoration, the City of Asheville held a second press conference at 4:30 pm Friday. Water Resources Director David Melton said water distribution continues to improve and provided updates on areas where water is or will be flowing through taps soon.

Restored or in-progress:

Concord Road to Fairview Roads including Emma Grove, Charlotte Highway, Gap Creek Highway, and Cane Creek Road.

Expected to be restored soon:

Royal Pines and Mount Royal

Melton said they are also working on the outages in the Avery Creek community.

Melton and other city officials held the press conference in part to answer questions they’re hearing from the community. Melton said some residents are asking why they still don’t have service, even though they live in areas on the City’s map that indicate water has been restored.

“Given the elevation, pressure and lines, and the demand, there will be some fluctuation on water service,” said Melton.

Melton said it’s normal for water to come back on, and then stop again as the full system gets back up to speed. Residents could also see fluctuations in water pressure.

Melton said the mandatory order to conserve water is for residents whose service is not interrupted.

“When customers with water reduce use, that helps keep more water in the system which keeps pressure up and helps us recharge the entire water system. That means that your neighbors without water get water faster,” said Melton.

For those who need drinking water, they can call 211 until 7 pm Friday evening. Beginning Saturday morning, they need to call the City's emergency water resources line at 828-251-1122 between 9 am and 5 pm.

As of 4 pm Friday, the City and its partners had delivered water to more than 1200 residents.

Mayor Esther Manheimer said she understands residents’ and businesses’ frustrations as they go into a sixth day without water.

“We're going to stay here until this is fully restored. We're going to be available to provide information and updates throughout the weekend, and the staff is continuing to work as hard as they can to restore water service to all of our customers.”

The Mayor was joined by Vice Mayor Sandra Kilgore and Councilwoman Sage Turner, but neither spoke at the press conference.

Manheimer said that Asheville is included under the Governor’s state of emergency declared on December 20, ahead of the extended freezing forecast.

“We have made sure that we're operating under the parameters that we need to, to be able to provide the services we need to our community. We are working with emergency services here in Buncombe County, which are supported by the state.”

Restaurants affected by the outages can’t reopen until they have running water. Once service is restored, operations can resume – but businesses in the boil water advisory zones must follow the restrictions

Manheimer said restaurants who were shut down by the County for operating without water during the outages, but who have water restored, will have to call the County Health Department at 828-250-5016 before they can reopen.

A rushing channel of muddy water in Greater Asheville coming from a broken branch line.
Water lines continue to rupture, including this one that burst Friday afternoon in an Arden neighborhood.

Updated 12/30 2:30 p.m.

The City of Asheville will hold a Press Conference at 4:30 p.m. today/Friday to update the latest information on restoration efforts. You can see a live stream of the briefing https://www.facebook.com/CityofAsheville/

Asheville’s water situation continues to improve, but not enough to meet the goal of getting faucets flowing for everyone by late Friday afternoon, according to city officials who shared a number of updates during a noon briefing.

“I'd like to start this conference by saying that I completely understand the frustration of our customers during this event,” said David Melton, Director of Water Resources for the city. “But rest assured staff is still working and will continue working 24 hours a day until this issue is resolved.” Melton says all of the city’s water treatment plants are now fully operational and pressure is building across the system, but stressed it will take time for tanks to fill so water can reach residents and businesses.

“Unfortunately, we will not be able to meet the goal of having full water service restored to all customers by the end of the day, Friday,” says Melton, who went onto say that a number of factors are impacting how quickly water gets back into the lines including water consumption, the amount of pressure in the lines, and elevation. “We do know that Spivey mountain and Candler Knob areas,  located in the western part of our water system, will likely be  among the last to return due to elevation and other factors.”

Water was restored Thursday evening in parts of south Asheville, including portions of Old Haywood Road, Glenbridge Road & Old Shoals Road, Concord Rd from Mills Gap to Keswick, Hendersonville Road from Airport Road to Mills Gap and parts of the Deerfield area.

Boil water advisories remain in effect for service restoration areas The Service Restoration Progress Map highlights both boil water advisory areas and the active water service restoration areas in progress. Melton said customers within these areas may still experience fluctuating service as the water system returns to normal.

He said the city is getting an additional pump to help get more water to the west faster and noted there are a number of things the community can do to help recharge the system including taking shorter showers, avoid washing cars, delay doing laundry and running the dishwasher. Officials said at this point, they are not setting a time frame for complete restoration of the system.

Meantime, officials say the NC 211 water delivery  program will continue until 5 p.m. Friday and then they will reassess the situation to decide if it should be extended. NC 211 is connecting those with the greatest need or without access to transportation to these delivery efforts. The city says while 211 is a 24/7 phone line, community members are asked to call between 9am-5pm to request water assistance.

Mayor Esther Manheimer thanked the public for their patience and said she’s heard from a lot of people, including many who said they had water then lost it, or have low water pressure. “And as we've tried to make clear, as the system is recharged and demand is fluctuating, this will happen. The 'fits and starts' as I call it, are indicative of recharging a water system.”

“We know this is a crisis situation. We are working as fast as possible. For many, this is more than just an inconvenience and we understand that this is an emergency that needs to be addressed. I want to make sure that's clear. We understand the urgency of this situation. We also want to thank all, all the folks that have helped.”

Manheimer said she has been in communication constantly with the governor's western representative and said the state is working with Buncombe County Emergency Services to support delivery of emergency water supplies. Metropolitan Sewerage District has also provided assistance in addressing leaks.

City officials also answered a number of questions:

What's changed since the last update that's pushed back the restoration timeline (4 p.m. Friday 12/30 according to the mayor) and what is the new estimate for when all water will be restored?

David Melton, Water Resources Director: Well, the timeline we gave in the beginning, we prefaced that as a goal and it was our goal. And we're still working towards that. It's just the complications of the system and the complexity of the system. We have to do it carefully and we have to do it precisely so we don't cause even more problems. There are also regulatory considerations as well as, as we go through this process as of today.

Mayor Esther Manheimer: I would add, and this is a lay person sitting in these staff meetings, listening to the staff talking technical details about why a pocket here or a pocket there might not receive service within the time period. And it may be because that area specifically has a tank that needs to be filled to the greatest level in order to create enough pressure to serve that area. So it might be just sort of situated a little bit differently in a portion of West Asheville that's served by a tank that is not on the main system like you might see on Long Shoals or Mills Gap. So that could be a reason why you might see a longer timeline to get service because it takes a different a longer process to charge that district before it can receive water.

Is there a new time frame estimate for complete restoration of water services?

Mayor Esther Manheimer: No, I don't think there, there is. I mean, I think we're still hopeful. Our 48 hour mark is four o'clock today/Friday. I think we're still hopeful that we'll see a majority of folks, but we don't want to promise that because the usage has fluctuated - how much pressure's in the system, whether or not people are seeing a drip and then they lose it or they get constant flow and then they lose it. So we want to be careful in saying that, because the last thing you want to do is say it's going to happen by this exact time and then it doesn't. That is a very frustrating experience. But I think what should be encouraging news is that we are seeing customers come back online. That system is recharging and that effort is constant and ongoing and it is in progress. So we're not seeing any reason why that will stop happening, and that is the good news. It's just a matter of time at this point.

 Is there a new estimate as to how many people are still impacted?  (David Melton noted earlier this week as many as 38,500 people lost water) .  

Mayor Esther Manheimer: No, it's much easier to talk about geography. Let me just go a little bit in the weeds here for a minute. So we have a smart metering system where you can remotely detect whether each customer is receiving water. We made those upgrades over the last several years, but it requires literally driving by and picking up that data to be able to know - does this household have water right now, does this household? I think you're used to seeing that with Duke Energy. They can say, you know, we have 736 customers without power in Buncombe County. That real-time data for the water outage is in the works, but it is not available without that manually driving around and picking up that information. So to be able to give you an exact number is not possible. It is more possible to tell you where we know water is in the system and what customers it should be providing water to.

 A lot of people want to know why more help hasn't come from the state. What is your response to those concerns and is that help needed right now or was it needed over the last few days?

Mayor Esther Manheimer : I would say the state is doing everything they can do to help us out. I mean, the state doesn't run a water system and doesn't have the equipment, but they have the emergency response support that they provide to Buncombe County Emergency Services. So the state is doing what they can. I also talked with Senator Chuck Edwards last night. He duplicated what the governor said in terms of offering support for us. The way the state, as I understand interacts here is more from a regulatory standpoint - things that we might need relief from on the regulatory side in order to speed things up, I put that question out there. So we're seizing upon everything they can do to help us and they are doing everything they can to help us right now.

Updated 12/30 8 a.m.

The City of Asheville will hold a Press Conference at noon today/Friday to update the latest information on restoration efforts. You can see a live stream of the briefing https://www.facebook.com/CityofAsheville/
A press release issued Thursday evening said water crews would remain in the field overnight to continue necessary repairs and monitor the system as it recharges.

While officials haven't released an estimate of how many are still without water, the statement said the majority of Mills River and Arden were brought back online Thursday and customers should start seeing an increase in water pressure and service, noting service may continue to fluctuate as the system comes back online.

Mills River / Fletcher area: Butler Bridge Rd. (including surrounding areas)Jeffress Rd. (including surrounding areas), Riverstone Subdivision
Arden area : Airport Rd.(including surrounding areas), Long Shoals Rd.(including surrounding areas), Royal Pines Dr.(including surrounding areas), Ledbetter Rd
South Asheville areas: Biltmore Park Area, Sweeten Creek Rd. & Hendersonville Rd. from Mills Gap south, Portions of the Oak Forest Subdivision, Portions of the Royal Pines Subdivision, Biltmore Forest area leading to the Blue Ridge Parkway, Reynolds Area along Charlotte Highway including Avondale Rd.

Boil water advisories remain in effect for service restoration areas The Service Restoration Progress Map highlights both boil water advisory areas and the active water service restoration areas in progress.

The NC 211 water delivery  program will continue Friday. NC 211 is connecting those with the greatest need or without access to transportation to these delivery efforts. The City says while 211 is a 24/7 phone line, community members are asked to call between 9am-7pm to request water assistance. They ask residents to be patient when calling 211 as they are seeing a higher than normal call volume.

Deerfield Retirement Community in South Asheville was among those still waiting for the taps to turn on Thursday evening. President and CEO Libby Bush says along with portable toilets, bottled water and shuttle trips to showers, staff and residents worked together and came up with some creative solutions – including tapping into the swimming pool on campus for water to flush toilets.

Updated 12/29 9:45 a.m.

The City of Asheville says it expects water service will be fully restored in 36 hours, noting some residents may have water sooner than others depending on their location in reference to the treatment facility. To see maps of the boil water advisory and water restoration locations click here.

The latest news release issued Thursday morning said all three water treatment facilities are online, including the Southern Water Treatment Plant and all identified major leaks have been isolated or addressed:

Water service restoration as of December 29: Water is moving through the system and filling storage tanks as quickly as possible. Primary lines need to be filled/restored first, which at times requires isolating secondary lines. The refilling process must occur slowly and strategically to ensure pumps and other components of the system are not damaged.

  • Primary water main lines between Mills Gap Rd. to Airport Rd. have been refilled. 
  • Customers in this area will slowly start to see water service return and water pressure increase throughout the day and into tomorrow.
  • North of Mills Gap Rd. should continue to see improvement in their service as the system continues to normalize.
  • West Asheville’s main storage tank continues to refill. As the tank reaches optimal levels, services will be restored. This process will be taking place over the next 24-hours.

Residents who are still without water and need assistance are encouraged to call 211 or register online at NC211.org. Deliveries will continue to take place today/Thursday between 9 a.m to 7 p.m. This service is provided for those in greatest need or without access to transportation. The City of Asheville will continue to update the community through social media channels, the city website and AVL alerts as progress continues.

Boil water advisories remain in place for some areas, those areas include:
Spivey / Candler

  • West of Johnson School Blvd. to Dogwood Road. 
  • Smokey Park Hwy. to 19/23 through Candler. 

Southern distribution area

  • South of Swannanoa River Road to Airport Road. 
  • Fairview community to Highway 191/Brevard Road. 

Even as water service returns, the City says customers in impacted service areas are reminded they remain under a boil water advisory. Advisories will be lifted when water quality testing has confirmed no bacteria is present in the water. Customers will receive an AVL alertwhen the boil water advisory has been lifted. The City encourages all community members to sign up for the Asheville Alert system(AVL alert). This is the City’s primary alert system designed to inform the community.

Next steps - what’s to come for the community As Asheville's water system normalizes and pressure stabilizes, the City says customers may notice temporary changes to their restored service. Here are some of the brief changes they may experience:

  • Intermittent service as the system normalizes.
  • White frothy water
  • Cloudy water
  • Intermittent water from the spout
  • Discolored water 

    The City recommends these steps to address the changes and help your service return to normal.

  • Flush air out of lines by SLOWLY running your cold water 
  • When the water runs clear, it’s then safe to use your hot water

Customers will receive an AVL alertwhen the boil water advisory has been lifted.

What to do if you still need help? The City of Asheville asks customers to contact the City if customers continue to have problems with or questions about their service. There are several ways to contact staff

  • Email egovutility@ashevillenc.gov 
  • Report issues using the Asheville App 
  • Call the customer service line at 828-251-1122. *Due to high call volumes, wait times will be longer than is typical for the customer service line.

The city could not confirm how many people remain without water but earlier Wednesday said more than 38,000 people were impacted during the outage - which began for some on December 24th. Officials say a combination of factors -including the big freeze – which caused leaky pipes and stalled the Water treatment plant- led to the widespread outage.

Updated 12/28 4:39 p.m.

Asheville’s Southern Water Treatment Plant is back online, according to the City’s Water Resources Director David Melton. At a 4 pm press conference Wednesday, Melton said it will take time to restore services to all residents and water may be periodically disrupted until the system completely recharges.

Melton could not confirm how many people remain without water but earlier Wednesday said more than 38,000 people were impacted. He added that all major leaks have been isolated and addressed.

A boil water advisory remains in effect for parts of the Southern and Western distribution areas.

Asheville Fire Chief Scott Burnette says anyone in need of water should call 211 between 9 am and 7 pm. He said more than 100 people put in requests so far.

“Also proactively, using our climate justice map, which identifies those in our community who are most vulnerable during a climate emergency, those who are elderly, those who are disabled, those who might not have transportation, those who may have financial hardship – proactively we have delivered to 140 people we identified through that climate justice map.”

More than 100 people put in requests for water during the third day of widespread water outages in Asheville and Southern Buncombe County. The City says residents should call 211 between 9 am and 7 pm if they need water and can’t obtain any themselves.

Mayor Manheimer said that disruptions will continue as they gradually bring water services back online. She added that the City will issue another update by 9 am Thursday morning.

City officials continue to urge residents to conserve water and report water leaks by calling 828-251-1122 and to sign up for updates with the City of Asheville AVL Alert system.

Updated 12/28 2:30 p.m. The City of Asheville has announced it will hold a Water Service Update briefing at 4:00 p.m. today, Wednesday, December 28 to update the status of Asheville’s water supply. Check the Asheville City Government Facebook page for a live broadcast.

Updated 12/28  12 p.m.

"Gradually" was the term Asheville city officials used when asked when the water would start flowing again in southern Buncombe County during a noon press briefing that aired live on the City of Asheville’s Facebook page.

“I think the biggest challenge around this water outage is that, you know, folks want an ETA, when is that water going to come back out of my faucet?” acknowledged Mayor Esther Manheimer. “And the answer is, we can't precisely tell you. We can tell you today/Wednesday that the Mills River plant is gradually going be brought back online. That is the hope. But we also know that we have to be very careful in bringing the system back so that we don't create any greater harm.”

On Tuesday, the city issued a statement noting that a combination of factors, including freezing temperatures that triggered a wave of leaky pipes, and a stalled water production facility in the southern portion of the city's distribution system, contributed to the widespread water outage in the southern part of the city and county.

During Wednesday's briefing Asheville Water Resources Director David Melton said more than 38,000 people in southern Buncombe County have been impacted by the outage - that began for many on December 24th. Melton also refrained from confirming a time table for the return of flowing spigots, but said parts of south Buncombe should have water today and noted as the system gets back on line, customers in the west may see periods of low or no water pressure. “And this is just due to the complexity of our water system,” said Yelton. You can watch the full press conference here.

Asheville City Fire Chief Scott Burnette said efforts are underway to get drinking water to people who are unable to travel to stores. Burnette says residents who need assistance can call 211 between 9:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m. on Wednesday. You can find more information at NC 211.

Officials also shared the following updates including details about the Boil Water Advisory:

  • Only customers in the southern distribution area are currently under a Boil Water Advisory. The advisory will be lifted when water quality testing has confirmed no bacteria is present in the water. The affected areas are south of River Road to Airport Road and from the Fairview community to Highway 191 / Brevard Road.
  • The southern water treatment facility is slowly coming back online today (Wednesday, December 28). Customers may still experience no water or low pressure during this process.
  • Water crews are still in the field repairing leaks. Identified leaks will be marked by a safety cone or the word “locate” to let the public know that the leak has been identified or reported.
  • Customers will receive a message notifying them when the Boil Water Advisory has been lifted via Asheville Alert.

Updated 12/27 6:15 p.m.

No water for another 24-48 hours – that’s the latest from the City of Asheville in a statement released Tuesday evening about the portion of southern Buncombe County that has been coping with dry taps since December 24.

Here’s the release from the city:

The production facility in the southern distribution area will tentatively be producing water in a reduced capacity on Wednesday, December 28. If water department staff discover leaks on private property, water will need to be turned off to conserve water and limit property damage. Staff will make every effort to contact the account holder before shutting water off. Once a repair is made, water will be restored.

Given the complexity of this water system disruption, customers currently without water will likely be without water for an additional 24-48 hours. 

Working with our community partners, the City is in the process of establishing a system to provide drinking water to those in the most impacted areas who are unable to get water for themselves. More information to follow on Wednesday, December 28.

BPR reached out to the city for specifics about the plan to get water to those most affected, which includes a stretch of Hendersonville road in south Asheville. City spokesperson Christy Edwards told BPR: "We are not able to share details at this time. More information will be available tomorrow."

On Tuesday afternoon, numerous restaurants and fast food stops were shut down along Hendersonville road. The shelves were stripped bare of bottled water at the Ingles off Mills Gap Road.

A long isle at Ingles showing empty shelves where bottled water is usually stacked.
Catherine Komp
On Tuesday, Ingles on Hendersonville and Mills Gap Road was completely sold out of bottled water.

Portable toilets were in place at the Asheville Regional Airport. Spokesperson Tina Kinsey told BPR all restrooms and the restaurants remain closed at this time.

“Passengers should be aware that there are no working restrooms post-security screening,” says Kinsey. “This means they will need to use a portable toilet prior to going through security. If at the gate already and they need to use the restroom, passengers can exit to the public side of the airport to use the facilities, but will then have to go through security screening again to get to their gate.”

“No water can be taken through security screening, and the water fountains are not operational due to the outage. We do have bottled water for sale in the retail area and in vending machines, if passengers are in need of water prior to boarding their flights.”

The impact on the Mission Hospital system has been minimal so far. Spokesperson Nancy Lindell told BPR: “Mission [Hospital] is not experiencing a water outage at this time. However, several Buncombe County Mission Health medical practice locations are without water and some appointments are being rescheduled as needed. Care Partners main campus, along with Care Partners PACE, are also without water, but contingency arrangements are in place and patient care is not impacted. Based on a request from the City of Asheville, we have been utilizing water conservation practices since the weekend.”

An image of Biscuit Head's door showing a sign reading "Due to the water issues in South Asheville, we will not be opening today 12/27."
Catherine Komp
Biscuit Head was one of many businesses along Hendersonville Road that were forced to shut down due to no or limited water.

12/27 12:30 p.m.

Residents in the Southern part of Buncombe County, including parts of Asheville, are without water for at least a second day following problems at a water production facility.

In a press release issued at 12:30 pm Tuesday, the City said crews have been working “around the clock” since December 24 to identify and repair water line breaks. As of Noon today, two locations on McDowell Street, two locations on Sweeten Creek Road, as well as Depot Street and London Road were repaired.

The Asheville Regional Airport reported outages and was forced to close all restrooms and restaurants. Officials there brought in portable toilets. Flights are operating as scheduled.

The City has not provided a timeline for restoration of services, or information about water distribution for affected residents but said officials were coordinating with Emergency Management partners.

Late Monday night, the city issued a boil water advisory:

A Boil Water Advisory means there is a potential for contamination due to loss of pressure, but contamination is not confirmed. Periods of low or no pressure in the distribution system increase the potential for back siphonage and introduction of bacteria into the water system. It is recommended for customers to vigorously boil all water used for human consumption for one minute (including drinking, making ice, brushing teeth, washing dishes and food preparation) or use bottled water.

The outages, according to the press release, resulted from the extreme weather and higher consumption levels due to residents dripping faucets to avoid burst pipes and more people at home for the holidays.

The City issued mandatory water conservation measures, including:

Minimize or delay processes that use large quantities of water.

  • Take shorter showers.
  • Do not wash your car.
  • Delay doing laundry.
  • Delay running the dishwasher.

For updates on outages, the City recommends residents sign up for the City of Asheville AVL Alert system. Residents can report water leaks to egovutility@ashevillenc.gov or by calling the customer service line at 828-251-1122.

As of Tuesday early afternoon, the City did not have any information on the outages on its homepage. To find the advisories it began to issue on December 25th, residents need to click on “Water quality and advisories” and then scroll down to “Boil Water Advisory” or “Potential Low Pressure or No Water.”

Should residents see brown water coming from faucets after restoration, the City advises the following under its "Boil Water Advisory":

Once pressure is restored, discolored water or air could be present in the lines. If you experience either of these, customers are advised to wait 2-3 hours, then flush only the cold water lines for 10-15 minutes, but no longer. Water customers are strongly urged to conserve water whenever possible. If discolored water or air is still present after flushing, please call customer service at 828-251-1122.

BPR has reached out to the city for more information about the number of residents affected, emergency water distribution sites and a timeline for restoration of services.

The City of Asheville said it will provide another update Tuesday by 6 pm.

Are you affected by the water outages? Share your experiences by recording a voice memo or emailing voices@bpr.org.

Catherine Komp joined Blue Ridge Public Radio in September 2020 as the organization’s first Director of Content, leading BPR’s talented team of local journalists and content creators, overseeing national programming and facilitating collaborations and engagement initiatives.
Helen Chickering is a host and reporter on Blue Ridge Public Radio. She joined the station in November 2014.