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Millions In Texas Under Boil-Water Notices Because Of Winter Storm

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality reported on Wednesday that 332 local water systems across the state, 276 issued boil-water notices to make tap water safe to drink.
LM Otero
The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality reported on Wednesday that 332 local water systems across the state, 276 issued boil-water notices to make tap water safe to drink.

Without power to run water treatment plants, city and state officials across Texas are pleading with residents to conserve water and are issuing boil-water notices.

The warnings not to consume water out of the tap began in many places as early as Monday, but as of Wednesday night many municipalities had expanded those orders as the state grapples with the ongoing weather, energy and water crises that have placed unprecedented strain on the state's entire power grid.

"As of noon today, there were 332 local water systems reporting impacts in 110 counties across the state, 276 issued boil water notices," Toby Baker, who heads the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, said during a Wednesday press briefing, NPR member station KERA reported.

That means about 7 million people in Texas, including residents of Houston, Arlington, Fort Worth and Tyler, need to boil their water to ensure it's safe to drink.

"The water pressure is below levels that are required by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, TCEQ, and that water pressure maintains optimal safety for the water," LouAnn Campbell, a public information officer for Public Works and Utilities with the City of Tyler, said Wednesday.

She added: "We can't meet that pressure, so that's why we have to have a boil water notice."

Austin Water, which operates that city's water and wastewater utility, is trying to avoid a citywide boil warning, though it did issue a notice to some parts of the city "as a precautionary measure."

In a tweet, Austin Water said the utility company "has not detected contaminants in the water we are providing."

Some customers in south Austin complained they had lost all water access. One woman tweeted her frustration to the company, writing, " Customers in this area have been without water for up to 13 hours already and austin water won't seem to acknowledge this."

Another man wrote, "No water at all - would like some communication as to why the water is completely shut off for south/ southwest Austin?"

Meanwhile, Austin Water is requiring mandatory conservation measures and urging residents to limit water use to essential needs. It's also provided an instructional video for residents on how to properly make the water safe to drink or cook.

In San Antonio, officials have made boiling water a voluntary measure that is expected to be in effect for several days.

As Texas Public Radio reports, "The notice comes as residents across San Antonio experience frozen pipes, lack of water pressure, and overall service outages."

While much of the city still has drinkable water running through its pipes there are some areas that have low pressure — making the water unsafe — or lost service, according to San Antonio Water System.

SAWS officials said problems with power outages will likely continue through Saturday.

But even after normal power levels are restored, customers should expect problems with water pressure to continue, Steve Clouse, SAWS's chief operating officer saidon Wednesday.

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Vanessa Romo is a reporter for NPR's News Desk. She covers breaking news on a wide range of topics, weighing in daily on everything from immigration and the treatment of migrant children, to a war-crimes trial where a witness claimed he was the actual killer, to an alleged sex cult. She has also covered the occasional cat-clinging-to-the-hood-of-a-car story.