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North Texas Cities Draining Water Tanks During Drought

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(credit: KTVT/KTXA) Bud Gillett
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FORT WORTH (CBS 11 NEWS) - With parts of North Texas in Stage-3 water restrictions it might seem counter-intuitive for local water utilities to intentionally flush water “down the drain” – but that’s exactly what some are doing.

The state requires each water tower in Texas to be inspected every year, and Fort Worth is just beginning the process at a tank on the city’s east side. The tank holds two million gallons of treated water.

“I think it’s hypocritical,” said White Lake Hills resident Ida Barrett. “It’s not fair for our grass to die and then you throw all the water away, down the drain.”

In the case of the Fort Worth tower, it had 300,000 gallons of treated drinking water, but Mary Gugliuzza, the Fort Worth Water Department spokeswoman, said it’s not what it seems.

“We don’t like dumping the water either, but we need to do the requirements to make sure the system is still in good shape.”

It’s apparently an annual rite of autumn. All 30 towers or ground water tanks must be drained and inspected for holes or other problems.

The shedding process is designed so water is drained directly into storm sewers, but occasionally that backs up, so a relief valve runs the water into the street, which is what most residents saw.

Water escaping from drain plugs in the tower’s bowl signals that the tank is nearly empty.

The city carefully choreographs the liquid dances so inspections are done when water is at the lowest possible level: about 18-inches.

“We can’t empty them completely with customer usage because, especially in the case of elevated tanks, then we could lose pressure,” Gugliuzza said, adding, “If we lose pressure then we could potentially be facing a ‘boil water’ notice.”

State officials told CBS 11 News that even in a drought such inspections are critical to consumer health and they haven’t received any complaint calls. But tell that to residents like Julie Justice.

“I think it’s a waste in the current point in time when we’re trying to conserve water and we’re all under water restrictions,” she said.

So, with 30 tanks, how much water does Fort Worth flush?

Gugliuzza quickly came up with a mental estimate. “If 300,000 is an average for every tank then it’s going to be close to 9-10 million gallons.” And she added, “It does hurt. But it’s part of operations.”

It’s not just Fort Worth draining water; it happens at every tank, in every city, every year. Last week, the city of Plano did a planned release of thousands of gallons of water from a water tank to do maintenance on the tower.

The runoff water, officials said, is de-chlorinated before it’s flushed so it won’t harm fish or wildlife downstream.

Should North Texas cities develop an alternative plan to prevent water from being wasted while we are in a severe drought? Let us know what you think in the comment section below.

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