Record-breaking heat in many Texas cities caused millions of dollars in damage to city pipes and severe drought caused massive water loss.
Officials across the state are struggling to deal with widespread leaks, despite urging water conservation and restricting outdoor water use. The impacts on Texas’ water systems highlight both the vulnerability of basic infrastructure to a warming climate and the high costs of adaptation.
Erin Jones, a spokeswoman for the city of Houston, which experienced record heat this year, said, “The combination of extreme heat and reduced annual precipitation is drying out the soil and causing changes in the water line.” “If the pipes become misaligned, the joints in the pipes can break and cause water leaks.”
He said Houston’s city government receives 500 calls a week about water leaks, up from 300 at this time in 2022, when drought conditions were less severe. . Jones said the city budgets about $20 million each year for water main repairs, but has approved spending an additional $33 million this year to bring in contractors to help city workers make repairs. It is said that he did.
The leaks are due to dry and shifting soil, as well as the fragility of aging pipes and high demand on the city’s water infrastructure despite conservation appeals and edicts. “Demand on our systems continues to increase due to increased water usage by our customers and increased water leaks,” Jones said.
Leaking pipes cost Texas billions of gallons of water and hundreds of millions of dollars annually.Texas water utility 30.6 billion gallons reported lost Through corruption and breaches in 2021, the most recent year for which data is available. The Texas Water Development Commission, the state water agency, estimated that there would be an additional 101.6 billion gallons of unreported losses that year.
These losses collectively accounted for 12% of reported water use and cost the state an estimated $266 million. Considering production costs In 2021, the amount of water lost was reduced rather than repairing broken pipes. Texas was fun that year. below average summer temperature and almost completely absent A state of drought. This year’s numbers won’t be released until 2024, but loss rates and associated costs are likely to be much higher.
This year has seen record temperatures, It hit Texas in late June. And it lasted until early September— global heat wave We also set a record from China to Morocco to Bolivia And what I made this summer is the hottest in the world At least since 1940.
US Drought Monitor Currently on show More than half of Texas is in “severe drought” and nearly a third is in “extreme drought.”of Groundwater in aquifers is decreasingand some reservoirs are approaching alarmingly low levels.
Statewide, this summer was the second-warmest on record, following 2011 and surpassing 2022, said John Nielsen-Gammon, director of the Southern Regional Climate Center at Texas A&M University. (For meteorologists, summer is from June to August.)
Several cities in addition to Houston had the hottest temperatures. This includes San Antonio, where from January to June there were an average of about 470 broken water pipes per month, but as the heatwave became more severe, there were 725 broken water pipes in July and 725 in August. The number of cases increased sharply to 1,076.