img 01813 Texas Drought Leads To Spike In Water Main Breaks

FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) – The same drought that has cities urging residents to conserve water is also forcing those cities to waste it.

Water utilities workers are regularly flushing lines after water main breaks, which have jumped 600 percent in some cities during the drought.

Each flush can send more than 10,000 gallons out into streets, just under what a family of four might use in a month.

“We have to have these steps to insure that after we do a water main repair that we make sure that water is clean and has been brought up to a certain level of water quality,” said Julie Hunt, the water utilities director in Arlington.

Hunt said her city is averaging about a half dozen breaks a day right now. Fort Worth is still seeing nine or 10 a day. Ennis, south of Dallas, has gone from about one a week to one nearly every day.

The trouble comes from the soil, which is so dry that it can only handle about eight to 10 inches of expansion from the pipes. The same reason house foundations sometimes shift during a drought is similar to why water main breaks increase, officials say.

Water directors said the lines have to be flushed after nearly every repair to remove sediment and air from the lines, and get chlorine to acceptable levels.

Some residents have asked why the city can’t recapture the water and take it somewhere where it was needed.

Sarah Stringer in Fort Worth said she and neighbors were doing everything they could to conserve water because of city requests.

“I think a lot of people are abandoning their yards and not watering them at all,” she said Monday.

Water officials said it would not be cost effective though to pump the water onto trucks or rout it through hoses to areas in need.

The frequency and unpredictability of breaks would make it difficult to plan for recapturing the water.

One official said it’s just the cost of doing business.

“We don’t have any flexibility as to the location of where we flush. We have to flush at the closest fire hydrant,” Hunt said.

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