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City of Lockhart asks residents to conserve water as tanks remain low

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By Kristen Meriwether, Editor LPR

Like the surge in power use that crippled the state’s power grid, the surge in water demand has brought public water systems across the state to its knees. 

At 2:33 a.m. on Feb. 17 the City of Lockhart posted a message on their Facebook page urging residents to minimize water usage to avoid having to go to a boil notice. The post said the city was seeing decreased water pressure as a result of winter storm conditions disrupting the City of Luling’s water deliveries to Lockhart.

At 7:29 a.m. the City of Lockhart issued a boil water notice for all residents due to, “critically low supply levels.” By midday on Feb. 17 every public water system in Caldwell County had issued boil orders due to lack of supply as well. 

The City of Lockhart has three water towers that store water for its residents: one on San Jacinto Street, which has 250,000 gallons, one on Wichita Street, which has 300,000, and one on Maple Street, which has 500,000 gallons, according to the city’s website. 

LPR asked for the current levels at each of the towers but was told the levels are dynamic. When the first post was issued at 2:33 a.m. there was still water in the tanks. By the time the second post was made after 7 a.m., those levels had changed drastically, according to a city spokesperson. 

Those towers are supplied from two sources: groundwater wells just outside the city limits, and the San Marcos River through an agreement with the City of Luling, according to a post on the City of Lockhart’s Facebook page. 

“Luling has a major leak in its system that it and the GBRA are working to identify and fix so that it can get water to its residents and to Lockhart,” a spokesperson for the City of Lockhart said in an email to LPR. “Until that’s resolved and we find a way to restore the water supply, we are asking residents to continue to boil water and to do their part to conserve it.”

The spokesperson added that no supply lines froze, but there were numerous burst pipes at residents, resulting in an atypical amount of water usage. 

At an afternoon press conference Wednesday Texas Commission on Environmental Quality Executive Director Toby Baker said there were 332 public water systems that had been disrupted. He said TCEQ requires bacterial sampling tests to demonstrate water is safe to drink before any boil order can be lifted. Baker said the state has 135 certified labs to do the testing.

When LPR checked with TCEQ later in the afternoon the number of public water systems disrupted was over 600, and is expected to climb. The number of labs remain the same. Baker said TCEQ is reaching out to surrounding states and the Environmental Protection Agency to help with some of the testing so the testing doesn’t become a bottleneck in returning to normal. 

A spokesperson for the City of Lockhart said to send the water for testing the pressure in the tanks would need to reach 20 PSI and meet or exceed acceptable chlorine levels.

“The water will be tested in GBRA’s lab in Seguin. Because GBRA makes our water, our sample test will be a priority,” the spokesman said. “There won’t be a bottleneck.”

Caldwell County Judge Hoppy Haden said the county sent a STAR request to the State on Wednesday morning for 14 trucks with pallets of water. Each truck contains 24 pallets of water. They also requested 10 tankers with potable water. Sending a request does not guarantee supplies will be sent. 

A City of Lockhart spokesperson confirmed the city has also sent a request, but did not give a specific number.  

“Upon receipt, the City would set up a way to get the water to residents,” the spokesperson said. 

At Governor Abbott’s afternoon press conference Chief of the Texas Department of Emergency Management Nim Kidd said the state is working with the Texas Military Department to airlift resources such as water, blankets, and cots to those in need. 

“As soon as it is safe to fly, we will be flying resources all across this state,” Kidd said. 

For now residents are urged to conserve water as much as possible. The City spokesperson said boiling snow for non-potable uses, like flushing the toilet, is fine.

“Our call to action remains the same. Conserve water,” the spokesperson said.  “If you have it, boil it before drinking it or cooking with it. And if you have or see a burst pipe, please call 512-398-4401 and provide the address or an approximate location.”

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