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Picuris Pueblo shuts off water for unpaid bills 7-07

PICURIS PUEBLO, N.M. (AP) - Picuris Pueblo has cut off water to some tribal residents because they failed to pay their bills.

The tribe gave the 68 families ample warning via newsletters, fliers and public gatherings before shutting off their water Monday, pueblo Sheriff Anthony Knitter said.

The tribe needs the money to fix aging water pumps and pipes, he said.

“We're just like any other utility. We do have an ordinance in place. We have a water utility board. Our water pump breaks from time to time, and we don't have money to pay for fixing it,” Knitter said.

“When the pump breaks, the whole community goes without water. It's not fair for some people to be paying and others not,” he said.

Olla Shije, 76, who is on a fixed income, said the tribe sent her three notices before shutting off the water to her house.

The tribe started bill for water several years ago, but told residents that paying was voluntary, she said.

“No one is going to pay when it is voluntary. I started paying the $8 fee when I could, but then I got behind,” Shije said.

The monthly price doubled to $16 about a year ago when the tribe also received an Indian Health Service grant to install water meters on pueblo homes, Knitter said.

The price will increase again when wastewater charges are added, but he said he did not know by how much.

The tribe has few revenue resources and must find money for basic improvements to housing, water and sewers, Knitter said.

Pueblo residents must sign contracts and keep their monthly water bills paid or face other shutoffs, he said.

Shije said she could “just have to tough it out. Take my clothes to the Laundromat. Buy some bottled water. Go to the river to get a gallon of water for my toilet.”
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