By Eric Sabolsice, Senior Vice President of Operations, Texas Water Utilities
As Texas tries to recover from the drought and enters cooler months, extreme winter weather events are probable. Some Texas cities are expected to receive their first freeze this month, and more cool fronts are on the way.
Water expands when it freezes, which puts tremendous pressure on pipes and can cause them to break. One pipe burst or leak can put strain on the entire water system until it is located and isolated. While water companies across the state are preparing their main water lines, storage tanks, and operations for freezing weather, there are things you can do to protect the pipes on your property.
Above ground water lines, outdoor irrigation lines, and water supply pipes in unheated areas are most vulnerable to breaking from freezing weather. To protect indoor and outdoor plumbing, wrap or insulate pipes and faucets in unheated areas and seal off openings around doors and air vents. Shut your water off at the valve and run all your faucets to drain the water from your pipes right before going to bed. This is more effective than dripping faucets, which drains water systems and makes it difficult to keep storage tanks full and systems well-pressurized. In the morning, you can turn your water back on and use it during the day.
If you plan to leave your home for an extended period of time, turn off your water by using the customer shut-off valve before you depart. When you return home, turn the water on and run all faucets to ensure there are no leaks. Broken residential pipes impact a utility’s ability to supply water to others, and completing this process helps water utilities continue to provide water to you and your neighbors.
Over the past 26 years, Texas Water Utilities has used an emergency response plan and steadily invested in water and wastewater infrastructure. In 2022, we directly invested $47.6 million in infrastructure reinforcements, repairs, replacements, weather emergency preparations and improved system monitoring and communications services within the 36 counties where we operate. We understand the responsibility of providing safe and reliable water.
As Texas continues to grow, we must work together and do our part to maintain our state’s water infrastructure to meet future water demands. Small measures in preparing your pipes for winter weather can have a lasting impact on your community.