Feb 19, 2021 - Energy & Environment

Water crisis expands beyond Texas

Icicles hang off the State Highway 195 sign yesterday in Killeen, Texas.
Icicles hang off the State Highway 195 sign yesterday in Killeen, Texas. Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Broken pumps, burst pipes and chemical shortages have left millions without potable water after this week's devastating winter storm.

The big picture: Millions of people across the South have been told to boil water, with thawing temperatures expected to reveal the extent of the damage to infrastructure.

  • Texas: 7 million people  — because low water pressure could have allowed bacteria to seep into the system, AP reports.
  • Tennessee: 260,000 homes and businesses in the Memphis area — because of water main ruptures and problems at pumping stations.
  • Mississippi: Most of Jackson's 161,000 residents — because the city ran out of chemicals due to resupply issues.

Between the lines: Water mains will need repair and homes have frozen pipes that will fail as they warm up. Municipal systems will take time to recover.

What's next: Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner (D) said he expects residents will have drinkable tap water again next week.

Go deeper