ROCKY BOY’S RESERVATION – The Chippawee Cree Tribe on the Rocky Boy’s Indian Reservation is facing a major water shortage.

Tribal officials have implemented water restrictions on their rural water system which serves more than 3,000 residents.

They say their water tanks are at critical levels, and usage must go down drastically in order to make it through the summer.

Water Tank on Rocky Boy ReservationThis is one of four tanks in the Rocky Boy Rural Water System. It supplies about 1,500 residents in the community of Box Elder. There are about five feet of water left in the tank, which equates to about 50,000 gallons of water.

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The community of Box Elder has two groundwater wells, but they’ve been using about 10,000 gallons (about a foot of water) from the tank every day, and at that rate, the tank will be depleted within a week.

That’s why tribal officials are enforcing water restrictions aggressively.

The restrictions include no outside watering of lawns or gardens, no sprinklers for kids, and people must check their plumbing, especially toilets, which can leak up to 600 gallons per day.

Tribal Water Resources director Dustin White explained, “Right now we have staff that will be monitoring all the communities. They’ll be driving and inspecting throughout the day, morning, and evening. We’ve got them on rotation shifts. Any individuals caught violating water restrictions, they’ll be given one warning, and a second warning will result in termination of their water services.”

In January, Rocky Boy lost pressure in their water system due to broken pipes and had to go on a “boil order” due to concerns of bacterial contamination.

During that time, they depleted their water storage tanks.

After the boil order was lifted, when the water started filling back up in the tanks, an ice layer that had formed on the bottom of one tank pierced it, knocking it out of service.

Now Rocky Boy has 300,000 gallons less water in their reserves.

White said, “It’s a direct result of that. Right now if it wasn’t for what happened back in December and January, we’d have 300,000 gallons of water storage capacity up on the hill additional, and that would be huge right now, if we had that water storage tank online, but unfortunately due to circumstances back in January we don’t have that.”

The Chippawee Cree Tribe is currently working to obtain federal grants to rebuild a new storage tank, drill more wells, and build a water treatment facility.