Town crews and Mayor Dan Rankin became aware of problems with the pump that draws drinking water from the well located near the Darrington school.
Despite the emergency, Darrington is not in danger of losing its water service, Rankin said.
Crews are "baby-sitting" the nearly 30-year-old piece of machinery around the clock and keeping storage tanks full until a new pump and motor can be installed Wednesday.
However, people must help out by watching the amount of water they use, Rankin said.
"If this was winter, we probably would not have to issue an alert," Rankin said. "But it's hot and dry up here and we use about 65 percent more water in the summer."
Trudy LaDouceur, spokeswoman for Darrington Fire District 24, said surrounding fire departments have been alerted to the potential need for use of water tanker trucks. Darrington Fire has water reserves primed, pressurized and ready to go in case of a fire, and in a big emergency would also go to the river and pump water if necessary, she said.
"But we want people to respect the burn bans and be careful about their water use," LaDouceur said.
Currently, though, the main well pump is limping along, Darrington's secondary well is providing most of the water to people in town.
Problems were discovered earlier this week when town crews were installing and testing an emergency generator. It is unknown whether the testing caused problems with the pump's underground electrical wiring or its motor, Rankin said.
"It's not worth trying to fix it," he said. "We need to get it out."
The new pump and its motor had to be specially ordered from Oregon, Rankin said. Municipal water pumps don't just sit on hardware store shelves. The new pump and motor could cost as much as $25,000, though Rankin is investigating the use of grant money to bring the cost down. Town coffers can cover most of the cost because residents have been paying a little extra for potential water pump replacement.
"We'll be keeping a close eye on the situation until we can get the pump replaced," Rankin said. "This has been my life for the past couple days."
Gale Fiege: 425-339-3427; firstname.lastname@example.org.
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