Record heat causes problems for Texas water systems

September 15, 2023

The Dallas/Fort Worth area has seen 53 days of temperatures over 100 degrees so far in 2023. In Waco, that number is 65. Texas’ prolonged heat wave, coupled with below-average rainfall statewide, has created conditions that are just right for water line ruptures.  

When soil dries up, water lines shift and many pipes – already old and brittle – break under the strain. The challenges – and costs – to repair Texas’ aging infrastructure are widespread, a Texas Water Infrastructure Network spokesman said. 

To help take on some of those challenges, state lawmakers in May approved a constitutional amendment that would create a $1 billion Texas Water Fund that will be used, in part, to support projects that will fix aging and deteriorating pipes.  

At least 25% of the fund would be transferred to the New Water Supply Fund for Texas, which will support projects such as marine desalination and treating “produced water,’ which comes from the oil fracking process. Additionally, the fund would have to be used for water infrastructure projects in rural areas. The Texas Water Development Board would administer the fund, which would be outside the state’s general revenue fund. 

This summer’s heatwave highlighted the need for improvements to the state’s water infrastructure. 

In Houston, for example, officials have been getting over 500 calls per week for water leaks; last year they averaged 300. City officials there have authorized $33 million above their $20 million budget for repairs. 

Laredo spent almost $500,000 on 89 water main repairs in July and August, an increase from $106,000 for 72 repairs in 2021, city officials said.

In addition to the cost of repairs for broken pipes, the state also loses billions of gallons of water. In 2021, a year with record low temps, utility companies reported 30.6 billion gallons lost to water leaks. The Texas Water Development Board estimates another 101.6 billion gallons went unreported. All told, 12 percent of all the water used in the state was estimated to be lost in 2021. Cost estimates just for the lost water are $266 million. The losses for 2024 could be staggeringly worse.

Government Market News Staff

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