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By Ben Benton
ORME, Tenn. -- A small army of plumbers on Saturday invaded the tiny town of Orme to install donated low-flow fixtures in every home just in time for a permanent water supply, officials said.
"It's terrific," Orme resident Joseph Vanallman said. "We really appreciate everybody coming together to help us out like this."
Mr. Vanallman and his wife, T.J., said their home on the town's old water system has been subjected to years of lime buildup, and their plumbing is no longer efficient.
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"The new stuff is going to help out a lot," he said.
Orme's spring dried up in August, leaving most residents with dry faucets. A firetruck and a water tanker from Tennessee-American Water Co. have hauled in water every two or three days to provide the precious liquid for a few hours each evening, officials said.
New plumbing fixtures donated by members of the Plumbing Manufacturers Institute will go with a new water connection, funded through a $648,000 emergency drought grant, expected to be finished as early as Tuesday, officials said.
On Saturday, more than 50 homes in Orme were refitted with new toilets, faucets and shower heads that are the latest in efficient plumbing technology, according to Barbara C. Higgens, the Plumbing Manufacturers Institute's executive director.
Saturday's event was a first for the institute, she said. Institute members include names like BrassCraft, Delta, Gerber, H2O Guard and Bemis, Ms. Higgens said.
The plumbing companies can't bring water to Orme, but they can help residents make the most of the water they have, she said. Robert Easter, with H2O Guard, came up with the idea, she said.
Mr. Easter said member companies that focus on water-efficient products knew they could make a difference in Orme.
"We saw the problems they were having, and we knew they would be a community with a lot of older plumbing parts, toilets, shower heads, aerators," he said. "If we used some newer-design products, we were going to get a lot of conservation."
He contacted fellow suppliers and the manufacturers institute and started making plans to visit Orme, he said.
"What we did was we brought our most recent, most efficient stuff," Mr. Easter said. The instant result of the donated fixtures could cut Orme's water use by as much as half, he said.
Orme Mayor Tony Reames said people in town have learned about conservation the hard way.
"This isn't about a town running out of water, it's about everybody," Mr. Reames said. "We're all in the same pinch."
He said he hopes residents learn to conserve from their drought experience and the changes they see in usage after they start using the new fixtures.
The mayor said water could start flowing from the taps by Tuesday.
Nancy Siler, a lifelong Orme resident, said people on fixed incomes could never afford to make the switch to high-efficiency plumbing.
"I'm just thankful that somebody is finally doing something for the community," Mrs. Siler said. "It's pulled the community together."
Paula Warner, a spokeswoman for Gerber, said her company jumped at the chance to help Orme when Mr. Easter came calling.
"Orme drives home the point that water is not a limitless resource," Ms. Warner said. Efficiency is becoming more important than ever, she said.
Mrs. Vanallman said better plumbing and a steady water supply will improve life for everyone in town.
"It's always great to get new stuff," Mrs. Vanallman said. But most of all, "I just like to see that people can come together and help people in need. That's why we love living here."
E-mail Ben Benton at email@example.com