Galveston water crisis nearing end

April 26, 2011 1:40:25 PM PDT
Officials say Galveston's water crisis may be nearing the end, but water restrictions remain in place. Crews began repairing the ruptured Gulf Coast Water Authority waterline this afternoon. Galveston officials are cautiously optimistic that repairs could be completed by noon Wednesday. The City has not lifted the Stage 5 Emergency Water Shortage notice. The public needs to continue conserving potable (drinking) water and limiting usage to essential uses only.

On Monday, supplemental water from the city of Houston was routed to the island through the old Highway 6 waterline via League City's infrastructure. Galveston also tapped its reserve wells near Santa Fe. Combined the pipeline is delivering approximately 8,000 gallons per minute to the city of Galveston.

Water consumption on the island is stable. The city of Galveston's water storage tanks are approximately 50 percent full at this time. The city of Galveston and the Gulf Coast Water Authority are working together to manage this water emergency.

Mandatory emergency water rationing measures continue for the city of Galveston:

  • All irrigation of landscaped areas with potable water is prohibited.
  • Use of potable water to wash any motor vehicle, motorbike, boat, trailer, airplane or other vehicle is prohibited, except in situations affecting the public health and safety based on written permission of the Director of Municipal Utilities.
  • There will be a pro rata curtailment of water deliveries to or diversions by wholesale water customers
  • Pool owners should refrain from filling pools until the water shortage is over
Work to repair that broken water line was expected to begin this morning, but the delay has pushed it back until the right crew arrives.

In the meantime, businesses and homeowners are being kept under tight restrictions. The water rationing will last until at least Wednesday, possibly longer. However, some businesses that use quite a bit of water have found a way around it. One of those businesses is the Moody Gardens golf course.

The City of Galveston is in a Stage 5 water emergency. A water leak in a 42-inch water line is gushing at a rate of 5,000 gallons per minute and it's been happening at least since Friday when it was discovered.

"It appears that it's shoddy workmanship from when they constructed it nine years ago," Galveston City Manager Steve LeBlanc said.

On Monday, a crew from Dallas headed to Texas City to begin repairs. There was a delay on starting those repairs, because there is very specific piece of equipment that is needed to fix the particular pipe. But the city of Galveston is still expecting things to be repaired by Wednesday.

For now, the city has issued mandatory rationing of water. That means no watering lawns, filling swimming pools, or washing your car with potable water, which is water that you could use for drinking or bathing.

Even though people in Galveston have been doing what they can to conserve water through the holiday weekend, water consumption dropped nearly in half. By Monday afternoon, water began to flow to the island through the old pipe, but restrictions remain in place.

The order could virtually destroy a golf course, but at the Moody Garden's course, they're OK. They don't use potable water on their course so they are able to keep the greens green, and avoid what would be a huge loss in revenue if they had to stop watering.

"It's water that comes through the city and then gets pumped into our water treatment plant. That was part of the deal when Moody Gardens entered into the arrangement with the city of Galveston about the golf course," said Bill Pushak, general manager of the Moody Gardens Golf Course. "If we didn't have the water that we do, we would lose the turf on the golf course. And we would start rationing it by shutting down the fairways, then the tee boxes and then the greens. I've seen it at other golf courses and it's not a good situation to get into, especially with the wind that we have right now and the temperatures are increasing, it definitely would kill the grass."

For the people who live there, they're wondering if the island's other water pipes are intact.

"I think they ought to look out for the future and make sure this doesn't happen again," Galveston resident Alive Harrington said.

The ban doesn't affect commercial car washes because the city can't legally order them to stop their business. The city says later this week, a more scaled back version of this rationing will go into effect, but for now they say they don't believe service will be interrupted.

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