Water problems continue to plague region after winter storm crisis

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Thursday, February 18, 2021
Water will take some time to normalize, Houston mayor says
THURSDAY A.M. UPDATE: Mayor Sylvester Turner said there are improvements with both water and power in Houston, but in the video, see what needs to be done before the water situation can be resolved.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- It wasn't just the power outages. The water outages have been widespread, and damage to some supplies was catastrophic due to the sub-freezing temperatures this week.

Water supply issues have been challenged by at least two separate problems: Widespread power outages and broken equipment.

Harris County meteorologist Jeff Lindner shared photos Thursday of several components at some water supply systems.

"Damage is extensive," Lindner said.

While thousands of homes and businesses deal with burst pipes, some local water supply systems suffered catastrophic damage after the freeze.

Approximately 590 public water systems in 141 Texas counties have reported disruptions in service, affecting nearly 12 million people as of late Wednesday afternoon, according to a Texas Commission on Environmental Quality spokesperson.

While some supplies are completely offline, others continued to experience low water pressure, which forced officials to issue boil orders throughout the region.

Houston remained under a boil order Thursday due to the risk of contaminants after pressure dropped during power outages and freezing temperatures.

Mayor Sylvester Turner said the boil order could remain in place until at least Sunday or Monday.

State environmental officials said Wednesday that people dripped faucets so much that it caused water pressure levels to drop even more.

"It's not clear when water supplies will be replenished, but energy constraints often have impact on the water system because the water system requires energy for treatment and pumping," said Michael Webber, an energy resources professor at the University of Texas at Austin.

13 INVESTIGATES: 48 hours without power a 'nightmare' as residents demand answers

How did Texas get to the point of prolonged outages during this historic winter storm? In the video, 13 Investigates' Ted Oberg looked back to the system that the state was built on.

Until the city gets its water back up and fully restored, Haddock urges people to limit their water use.

While utilities worked to restore service, homes and businesses may not be able to receive service until damage is repaired after burst pipes were reported. Power outages only made those situations worse, officials said.

"If you don't have any power, you're not even warming your homes at all, so the houses are just standing there with no power, pipes are going to freeze .... just like mine did," he said. "My pipes froze, and when the power came back [Tuesday] afternoon, my pipes burst. It's happening to everyone. This is a storm with no respect for persons."

In Galveston, water supply levels were holding steady Thursday morning, but they weren't increasing, city officials said.

"We will keep the water service on as long as possible, though intermittent disruptions may be necessary as we attempt to stabilize the water supply due to major water line breaks across the island," said public information officer Marissa Barnett.

Pump stations on 30th Street and the airport were running, but officials said they were aware of many areas of the city that were still experiencing issues.

Boil orders across the state could last longer than usual due to the unprecedented number of water supplies that were compromised by outages and pressure issues, according to Texas Commission on Environmental Quality Executive Director Toby Baker. Baker says testing will have to be conducted to ensure water is safe before the orders can be lifted.

There are only 135 labs in the state that do that sampling, he said.

The Texas Tribune contributed to this report.