Drought Brings Challenges To City Water Departments

By Jeff Griffin, Senior Editor | May 2012, Vol. 67 No. 5

“Something really amazing,” she added, “is that no injuries of line maintenance crews were reported in July with a few heat exhaustion incidents in August. It was a true testament of safety in the workplace and remarkable public service. City officials, trustees, councilmen and customers noticed and applauded their efforts.”

What lies ahead

Will coming summer produce another round of water line breaks?

In February 2012, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration National Climatic Data Center’s National Drought Overview classified 32 percent of the contiguous United States as being in “moderate to extreme drought categories with 13 percent in areas of severe to extreme” drought.

In many areas an extremely mild winter, followed by an early spring with heavy storms and bringing flooding in some regions, has people wondering what kind of weather the next few months will bring.

In the Houston area, Wright said rains in the months of December and January have refilled two of Houston’s three reservoirs.

“While the number of water line breaks continues to remain higher than in previous years,” he said, “the rains will ultimately reduce the number of breaks which are occurring.”

In Oklahoma City, Slaughter said there is nothing like a crisis to clearly see what needs to be fixed.

“Our utilities staff identified some proactive efforts to help prepare for future weather-related issues,” she said. “They include completion of reliability improvements at one of our water treatment plants, escalating completion of transmission system improvements that will deliver more water to far north and west areas of the city, identification of booster pump station installations in areas with seasonally low water pressure until planned permanent improvements are completed, replacing water mains with material not susceptible to corrosion, and updating the city’s Water Master Plan to reflect current water demand patterns and redistribution due to growth in new development areas.”