Blackfeet Tribe, Montana

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Browning's 1,250 residents were without running water for almost 12 hours April 1 after a major water main broke west of town. "It literally shut down the town of Browning,'' said Blackfeet tribal policeman Christopher Cadotte. "We had no showers, no toilets, no water, period.'' Stores' supplies of bottled water were quickly depleted. Police received nearly 200 calls from worried people. It took city crews about 10 hours to fix the main, which runs along U.S. 89. The water tank had to be drained to fix the pipe, so it took two more hours to get water flowing again. Browning has long had brown, silty water because of an aging system, but Saturday's total lack of water added perspective. Charlee Head called it a crisis. "Every day we have black and dirty water. But today it was much, much worse with no water.'' Head returned Saturday morning from Havre, where he spoke with city officials about their water system, which he hopes will be used as a prototype for a new system in Browning. Iron and manganese levels are unusually high here, which turns black when combined with chlorine. As the metals separate out of the water they create a silty, black substance that looks like dirt.