Aug 8, 2022 - News

Houston's water pipes are leaking more this summer

Close-up of water leaking from a broken underground water pipe in a residential Houston neighborhood on a sunny day
Water seeps from a broken water line in Maplewood. Photo: Jay R. Jordan/Axios

Houston is grappling with more than four times more water line leaks than normal this summer due to extreme drought gripping the Lone Star State.

Driving the news: Houston Public Works reports 483 active leaks in queue to be fixed across the city's 7,000 miles of water lines.

  • That's compared to roughly 75 to 100 leaks the city deals with on a normal basis, says Drew Molly, director of Houston's drinking water operations.

Yes, but: The number still pales in comparison to the nearly 1,200 active leaks during the height of the 2011 drought.

What's happening: The lack of substantial rainfall this summer is drying up the region's clay-based soil, making it easier for the ground to shift, which then cracks brittle pipes or disjoins one from the other.

  • "It's kind of a hard fact of living in Houston," Molly said.

How it works: Each repair only takes about three hours to complete, but the city is still behind.

  • Crews have to wait at least 48 hours before fixing a leak to make sure they won't disrupt underground utilities.
  • Sometimes, workers have to wait on special tools or parts — which often delays repairs.
  • Of note: Houston has hired three contracting teams to help deal with the workload this summer.

Get involved: To report an active leak, call 311 or make a report online. Within 24 hours, a Public Works employee will look at the leak and determine how to prioritize repairs.

  • "If the leak is bad, we want to be on it immediately," Molly said.
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