The park has hired a private local contractor to haul at least 40,000 gallons of water a day to storage tanks on the North Rim.
A rockslide from a late winter storm took out around 300 feet of horizontal pipeline on steep terrain, as well as 60 feet of vertical pipeline, halting water to North Rim facilities.
Hauling will continue until the pipeline is fixed and the park has enough drinking water stored for visitors and to meet structural fire requirements.
The North Rim pipeline transports water from within the canyon at Roaring Springs to the North Rim and is operated from approximately May to November. The only public potable water available on the North Rim is stored in its water-holding tanks.
Pipeline repairs are ahead of the original 45-day anticipated schedule despite extremely challenging work conditions. Park management still anticipates restoration of most lodging, camping, and other services at the North Rim by May 26, with some water-conservation measures for North Rim visitors and employees.
The initial 300-foot break was repaired, but when park crews tested the pipeline April 25, they discovered another 60 feet of vertical pipeline was missing higher up on even steeper terrain. Minor leaks may also need repairing, but a visual inspection of the pipeline indicates there are no more breaks.
Equipment and replacement sections of pipeline must be helicoptered in. The pipeline must be positioned, welded, and assembled on the sides of dangerous and steep cliffs. Helicopter support, fall-protection equipment, and other required safety materials are being used to keep the crew safe.
“The priority of the park’s response to the incident is minimizing risk and addressing the well-being of employees, partners and visitors, while doing all we can to mitigate this situation,” said Superintendent Chris Lehnertz.
Multiple breaks in the North Rim pipeline were caused by unusually heavy winter storms that led to rockslides. It is the worst damage the pipeline has suffered in more than 20 years. Partially exposed as it traverses rough canyon terrain, the pipeline is subject to frequent damage from rockslides as well as age-related failures.
Grand Canyon Lodge North Rim, a Forever Resorts property, will offer limited food and beverage services starting May 15. Overnight accommodations begin May 26.
Campsites will open May 15 with potable water and portable toilets, but no public laundry and shower facilities. The North Rim grocery store, gas station and post office will be open. Grand Canyon Trail Rides offered at the North Rim will begin operations May 15. The North Rim Visitor Center and Grand Canyon Association bookstore will be open as scheduled from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily, with a variety of ranger programs offered. The backcountry information center will be open 8 a.m. to noon and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. daily.
South Rim and Phantom Ranch operations are not affected by the pipeline damage.