Galveston water crisis leads to stage 4 Drought Contingency Plan, winter storm to blame

GALVESTON— A week of harsh winter weather has left over 945 residents without water due to frozen pipes.

The City of Galveston reported that the frozen pipes caused major leaks in many of the residents pipes which led to low water pressure.

"We've received over 5,000 calls for broken water lines," said City Marshal Michael Gray. "City crews have shut off over 945 valves so far, we have experienced freezing for a duration that we haven't seen since the 1980's."

The freeze is impacting neighborhoods all over Galveston.

"I had to remove the screens out of my faucets because they were all blocked up with debris," said Shirley Mauer.

Her plants are also frozen and she's bracing herself for the cost to replace them.

The leaks caused water reserves to dip to more than half of their capacity.  Locals filled the stores to stock up on water while some homes with leaks are summer homes with no permanent resident to look after them.

The City released a statement that read in part:

the City storage tanks did rise overnight, however we anticipate the need to stay in Stage 4 of our Drought Contingency Plan over the weekend. Stage 4 of the Drought Contingency Plan restricts residents and businesses from all non-essential water use. The specific restrictions are outlined below. The City is prepared to forgive any excess use due to broken water lines on all customers’ bills before they are mailed. Repairs and shut offs on the customers side of the meter are typically the customer’s responsibility, however, due to the nature of the event and the limited availability of plumbers locally, City crews are working diligently to assist citizens across the Island with simply turning water service to their home off. Citizens will still need to contact a plumber to help with repairs as well as turning the water back on.

Things You Can Be Fined for During Stage 4 of the Drought Contingency Plan

  • Irrigation of landscaped areas can only be done on Mondays and Thursdays for customers on the East side of them City (east of 103rd Street), and Wednesdays and Saturdays for water customers on the West side of the City (west of 103rd Street). Irrigation of landscaped areas with potable water shall be limited to designated watering days between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 10:00 a.m. OR between the hours of 8:00 p.m. and 10 p.m., and shall be by means of hand-held hoses, hand-held buckets, or drip irrigation only.
  • Use of potable water to wash any motor vehicle, motorbike, boat, trailer, airplane or other vehicle not occurring on the premises of a commercial car wash and commercial service stations and not in the immediate interest of public health, safety, and welfare is prohibited. Further, such vehicle washing using potable water at commercial car washes and commercial service stations shall occur only between the hours of 6:00 a.m. and 10:00 a.m. and between 6:00 p.m. and 10 p.m.
  • The filling, refilling, or adding of water to swimming pools, wading pools, and Jacuzzi‐type pools is prohibited.
  • Operation of any ornamental fountain or pond for aesthetic or scenic purposes is prohibited except where necessary to support aquatic life or where such fountains or ponds are equipped with a recirculation system.
  • Unless specifically approved by the Director of Municipal Utilities, no application for new, additional, expanded, or increased‐in‐size water service connections, meters, service lines, pipeline extensions, mains, or water service facilities of any kind shall be approved, and time limits for approval of such applications are hereby suspended for such time as this drought response stage or a higher‐numbered stage shall be in effect.
  • The use of water for construction purposes from designated fire hydrants by special permit is prohibited, except with the written permission of the Director of Municipal Utilities.
  • The following uses of potable water are considered non-essential in Stage 2 and are prohibited unless services are being provided by a third party for profit company: 1. wash down of any sidewalks, walkways, driveway, parking lot, tennis courts, or other hard surfaced areas; 2. use of water to wash down buildings or structures for purposes other
  • than immediate fire protection; 3. use of water for dust control, except as permitted by the Director of Municipal Utilities
  • All restaurants are prohibited from serving water to patrons except on patron request.

If you have a leak, here’s what you need to know…

  • If you called on Wednesday, January 18th or Thursday, January 19th and have not received a call back you will likely hear back from them Thursday evening or Friday, January 20th. With the high volume of calls, customer service representatives are working late into the evenings to return phone calls from customers.
  • City crews will assist homeowners with turning the water to their home off, however, repairs and turning the water back on will need to be made by a licensed plumber.

“We need our residents to report any leaks they might see over the next few days,” said City Manager Brian Maxwell. “As you walk your neighborhood be aware. This type of team of effort is what we need to help us identify the issues that are causing our water losses.”

Residents help by reporting the leaks online at http://www.galvestontx.gov/freeze, emailingcustomerservice@galvestontx.gov, or by calling 409-797-3550.