A Texas water shortage is looming even as power is slowly coming back. With electricity returning for the majority of Texas homes, a new issue arrives. Water shortages caused by frozen or burst pipes are now becoming a problem for residents.
Now, health officials are advising Texans to boil tap water before attempting to drink it. According to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, nearly 680 water systems issued boil water notices. Around 264,000 Texans reside in areas with nonoperational water systems.
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Severe Winter Conditions
Millions of Texans lost electricity and heat over the weekend as an arctic cold front descended on the central US. Roads were icy and dangerous for travel while airports canceled flights. Many local water systems and oil pipelines froze. This rendered many power plants offline. Consequently, many homes plunged into darkness. Light, heat, and communications all went down.
However, staying home also carried risks in places without power. The lack of power and heat pushed some residents to burn old furniture to stay warm. Meanwhile, other residents had to deal with flooded basements and collapsed ceilings as pipes froze and burst. Rolling outages became total blackouts as supply outstripped demand. As utility companies raced to bring back power, a new problem emerged. Frozen water pipelines are now choking off the water supply.
New Storm Incoming
The National Weather Service advised that another major winter storm is arriving from the Lower Mississippi Valley into the mid-Atlantic and Northeast by Friday. The condition might bring more heavy snow and freezing rain, which will complicate recovery efforts. The projected extreme winter weather this week will bring a new wave of problems, especially in the water supply.
The White House announced Wednesday that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) supplied generators to Texas. The agency is also preparing to move diesel into the state to ensure the continued availability of backup power to key critical infrastructure, including hospitals. Press secretary Jen Psaki added that FEMA will also supply Texas with water and blankets.
Texas Cities Facing Water Problems
In Austin, the city’s electric utility service warned of outages that can last longer than Wednesday. The city also issued a boil water notice after Austin’s largest water treatment facility lost power and water pressure dropped. In fact, one hospital needed to transfer some patients to other facilities after they lost water pressure, which affected the heating system.
Meanwhile, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said that restoring full utility services will take another couple of days. Similarly, the city is also on a boil water notice since Wednesday morning. The public works department reported more than 1,500 calls about water leaks and water main breaks since Monday. Even as the boil water notice is in effect, “they don’t have the power to boil the water,” remarked Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo. Until the state restores full power, residents will find it difficult to boil water on their own.
Galveston Also Reported More Broken Pipes
In Galveston, engineers reported broken water lines across the island city because of freezing temperatures. It is also under a boil water notice. The city reported that with the power down for a number of days now, many residents reported an “unprecedented” number of broken pipes. “Now that power is slowly coming back on and temperatures are rising, we are experiencing a massive amount of water damage to homes and businesses,” the city said in a statement.
Texas Water Shortage
Weather officials expect that the freezing overnight temperatures will continue at least until Saturday. Even after full power gets back as the ice melts, Texas’ water systems will need bacteriological sampling to ensure they are free from contaminants. According to the state’s environmental quality commission, sampling can take up to 24 hours. Texas will also request help from neighboring states in treating its water systems.
What kind of help do you think Texas needs right now? What help should the federal government or neighbor states give? Let us know what you think can help the frozen state of Texas at this point. Share your thoughts in the comment section below.