Lingering Aftermath of Winter Storm Uri Exposes Vulnerability of Texas’ Aging Water Infrastructure
With 38 public water systems in 31 Texas counties still issuing boil water notices three weeks after the onset of Winter Storm Uri, Texas Living Waters and partner organizations released a series of policy recommendations for addressing the state’s water infrastructure crisis.
“The Texas freeze didn’t just expose an electricity problem in our state, it also showed why we need to better protect Texans’ access to clean drinking water,” said Amanda Fuller, Texas Coast and Water Program director at the National Wildlife Federation. “Many of the issues still afflicting Texans after the storm are a direct result of aging water infrastructure. Texas lawmakers should heed these recommendations and take the steps necessary to ensure all Texans have reliable access to safe drinking water and our systems are prepared to adapt and grow from increasingly frequent disruptive weather events.”
“Water utilities have been struggling with extreme weather, growing populations, and aging, leaking infrastructure for decades now,” said Jennifer Walker, deputy director of the program. “Not only do we need to invest in our water treatment and delivery systems, we also need to focus on resilience planning and follow that up with action.”
The coalition called on elected officials to:
- Investigate the state of Texas’ water infrastructure, including points of social vulnerability
- Integrate climate projections into state planning
- Prioritize smart, efficient investments including non-capital solutions
- Designate public water supply as critical infrastructure
- Increase investment in weatherizing houses, prioritizing low-to-moderate income areas
- Equip utilities with the resources to protect pipes and machinery
- Prioritize investments in onsite water reuse, decentralized water systems, and green and nature-based infrastructure
- Enable coordinated communications around water service during disasters
- Double down on emerging efforts to promote water conservation
- Increase inspection and enforcement of existing building codes
The Environmental Defense Fund joined Texas Living Waters partners National Wildlife Federation, Sierra Club Lone Star Chapter, Galveston Bay Foundation, and Hill Country Alliance in submitting the recommendations.