February 17, 2021

Questions About the Water Supply

We’ve been getting lots of questions about the water supply.  Thank you, and please keep them coming—we’re doing the very best we can to disseminate timely and accurate information, and it’s helpful to hear from you what you’re experiencing at your location and what questions you have.  In this update I’ll attempt to answer some of them.

As you hopefully know by now, the City issued a boil water notice last night as a precaution and in accordance with TCEQ requirements, following a sudden drop in pressures resulting from mechanical problems at two of our wells, coupled with a lack of surface water from the City of Houston.  While this is only a precaution, you are asked to boil city water before using it, or use bottled water as an alternative.

But even before last night’s systemwide loss of pressure, many of you were already reporting low pressure on your blocks.  Public Works was out responding to multiple calls, and at every location they tested (by opening fire hydrants) they determined the water mains were operating within normal levels.  That led them to conclude that the predominant cause of low or no flow for the vast majority of residents was their smaller diameter individual connections having frozen over on Monday night, when temperatures reached their lowest.  Then, being below ground, those pipes are also taking the longest to thaw out.  All that said, it's entirely possible that if your street's wasn't one of the mains that was tested there could have been something else going on.  Public Works is addressing such issues as soon as they can be identified.

Another question I’ve been asked is for clarification on the City’s recommendation to conserve water, while at the same time telling people the problem was with their individual connections.  That one’s on me, and I apologize I wasn’t more clear.  As temperatures rose a bit yesterday many residents were delighted to find their water flowing again.  However, that might have just been the residual water already sitting in their pipes, and once used up there wouldn’t be any (or only limited) new water coming in.  Or, even if their water truly had been restored, there was no guarantee it would continue if the supply froze again overnight.  The suggestion to use water sparingly wasn’t about protecting the rest of the system or other users, but instead in anticipation of these likely scenarios.

The foregoing questions aside, what everyone really wants to know is when the water will come back for good.  I wish I could put a definite time on it, but the honest answer is that we don’t know.  Public Works is doing everything they possibly can to bring our wells back online and restore system pressure, and we’re obviously at Mother Nature’s mercy as we await warmer temperatures.  While it’s not what any of us want to hear, realistically we need to be prepared to tough it out for at least a few more days.

In the meantime, you might consider shutting off your water supply if you haven’t already, to minimize any damage from internal pipes that may have burst the past few days.  Since there’s not much more than a trickle right now anyway, not to mention the boil water notice, it’s worth foregoing what little water you might get to avoid making problems even worse when the plumbing does thaw out.  There’s no doubt homeowners all throughout our region are already dealing with these costly headaches.

Please keep your questions coming, and we’ll continue sending out updates as we have new information to share with you.  I have also requested Public Works to prepare a comprehensive public report at the conclusion of the event, detailing with full transparency the issues we have encountered and lessons learned.