Aug 21, 2023 - News

Dry, hot weather causing Dallas-area water main breaks

Illustration of a faucet with a drop of water with a sad face.

Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios

The combination of extreme heat, a drought and increased water use during the summer is stressing North Texas water pipes.

Driving the news: A water main burst late last week in downtown Fort Worth, causing street flooding and reducing water pressure in neighborhoods more than a mile away.

  • The city has repaired hundreds of broken pipes in recent weeks as water usage has set records.

Why it matters: Many Texas pipes are old, making them prone to cracking during droughts and extreme weather conditions.

  • In 2021, the state lost about 132 million gallons of water from breaks and leaks, according to the most recent Texas Water Development Board audit report. In 2020, that number was 136 million.

State of play: Hot, arid summers can cause soil to dry out and shift. Pipes already straining under increased water usage can shift in the dry, cracked ground, causing breaks.

  • Fort Worth used 406 million gallons in one day earlier this month, setting a city record for the amount of water used in a single day.

Zoom in: Fort Worth has 800 miles of cast iron pipes, which are prone to breaks. The water system is working to replace them with PVC pipes, per WFAA.

  • Dallas Water Utilities replaces pipes and makes repairs during the cooler, wetter seasons to prepare for the summer.

Threat level: Water main breaks can lead to boil water notices, which mean the water isn't safe to drink.

  • Boil water notices have become more common statewide. About 3,000 notices were issued last year across Texas, double the number issued in 2015.

The bottom line: Much of Dallas-Fort Worth is in a drought, but rain in May and June has helped maintain the water supply — for now.

  • Even so, water suppliers are asking residents to conserve water as much as possible during the heat, especially with no significant rain in the forecast.

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