Aging water infrastructure causes major water losses in Texas cities

(UI) — According to the Texas Tribune, Texas’ largest cities lost around 88 billion gallons of water last year due to old water infrastructure and extreme heat, resulting in significant financial losses and increased pressure on the state's water supply. Self-reported audits reveal that the main contributors to this water loss are leaks and main breaks, despite some loss from inaccurate meters and data issues.

Here's the water loss breakdown for Texas' biggest cities in 2023:

  • Houston: 31.8 billion gallons
  • San Antonio: 19.5 billion gallons
  • Dallas: 17.6 billion gallons
  • Austin: 7.1 billion gallons
  • Fort Worth: 5.9 billion gallons
  • El Paso: 4.8 billion gallons

Houston and Dallas experienced the largest increases in water loss, the Texas Tribune reported. Houston's loss surged by 30%, largely due to a severe drought causing soil to shrink and stress aging pipes. Similarly, Dallas saw an 18% rise in water loss, which city officials are currently investigating.

Other cities also faced significant water losses:

  • San Antonio: Lost around 19 billion gallons and has been working on a new five-year water conservation plan.
  • Fort Worth: Increased water loss cost over $8 million, despite initiatives like the “MyH2O program” aimed at improving leak detection and water management.
  • Austin: Lost around 7 billion gallons and has engaged consultants to improve water loss practices.
  • El Paso: The only major city to reduce water loss by 475 million gallons due to a strong focus on maintaining watertight infrastructure.

Jennifer Walker from the National Wildlife Federation told the Texas Tribune that current infrastructure is unsustainable and urged cities to enhance their planning and staffing to mitigate water loss. Additionally, a newly created Texas Water Fund, with a $1 billion investment, aims to address these infrastructure issues, though experts believe much more funding is necessary to tackle the state's water challenges comprehensively.

Texas 2036, an Austin-based think tank, estimates the state will need to invest over $150 billion in water infrastructure over the next 50 years. Despite some funding earmarked for rural areas, larger cities could also benefit from these resources. However, local officials, like those in San Antonio, express skepticism about state assistance and are proactively addressing water loss independently.

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