Feb 19, 2021 - Energy & Environment

Texas water crisis: 13 million lack drinking water

Picture of the last case of water bottles in front of a sign that reads: "limit 4 total of any kind of water per household."

Photo: Neill/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The lights for many Texans are back on, but more than 13 million remain without access to drinkable water, the New York Times reports.

Why it matters: "In many homes, taps were dry. Finding bottled water was nearly impossible. Some people resorted to boiling snow," CBS News writes.

  • Dozens of communities are under boil-water orders throughout the state to ensure the destruction of harmful bacteria and other microbes.
  • People are waiting in long lines in the below-freezing weather to buy bottled water, but grocery stores are quickly running out, the Wall Street Journal notes.
  • Several hospitals have also been affected by the shortage. Workers at Houston Methodist West and Houston Methodist Baytown hospitals have been collecting rainwater to flush toilets, per CNN.
  • In Austin, the state capital, water leaks and broken water mains have left the city's reservoirs nearly empty.

What's happening: Electricity was restored to all but about 347,000 households as of Thursday night, but more than 800 public water systems serving 162 of the state's 254 counties had been disrupted, per the Times.

  • The extremely low temperatures "left pipes cracked and knocked water-treatment plants offline," the Washington Post notes.
  • The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) provided 60 generators to support hospitals, nursing homes and water treatment facilities, 729,000 liters of water, more than 10,000 wool blankets, 50,000 cotton blankets and 225,000 meals.

What's next: Gov. Greg Abbott (R) has not given an exact timeline as to when Texans can expect the water to be restored, but local officials in Austin said that there was still “a lot of hard work” to do to get systems running again, according to the Times.

  • "If we simply try to turn the system back on everywhere and don’t check for leaks and do this in a methodical way, we’ll simply repeat what happened the other night where all the water drains out of our system," Austin's water director, Greg Meszaros, told the Times.
  • In Houston, Mayor Sylvester Turner (D) said he expects that residents will have drinkable tap water again next week, and he recommended people boil tap water before drinking.
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