Fort Worth, Texas – Amidst the oppressive heat and sustained dry spells, nature unveils its peculiar brand of aquatic displays – rampant water main breaks. Fort Worth, ensnared by this sweltering summer menace, witnesses an alarming frequency of over four such disruptions daily. This distressing trend is mirrored across neighboring municipalities in North Texas.
“We haven’t had any rain, so the ground is dry, and it continues to dry out,” Mary Gugliuzza, spokesperson for Fort Worth Water, said according to WFAA. “As it dries out, it contracts and shifts and that can cause main breaks.”
Huge demand for water due to extreme heat
Soaring temperatures catalyze an unprecedented upsurge in water consumption. A testament to this burgeoning demand was seen last Sunday when Fort Worth’s consumption skyrocketed to a staggering 406 million gallons in a mere 24 hours, outstripping the prior record by a significant 18 million gallons.
The city of Azle, not spared from this turmoil, grappled with its own set of water main breaches. A severe rupture recently necessitated the cessation of water pumps, imposing a precautionary boil advisory for a span of approximately two days.
Due to extreme heat, the City of Dallas was once again forced to activate the cooling stations around the city this past weekend.
Old and complex infrastructure another problem for the City of Fort Worth
The infrastructure also adds a layer of complexity to this issue. Fort Worth’s labyrinthine network consists of a daunting 800 miles of cast iron conduits, notoriously susceptible to ruptures. There is, however, a concerted effort to transition to PVC conduits, prized for their adaptability and resilience.
“There’s a limit to really how much you can do from both a financial standpoint and a contractor standpoint,” Gugliuzza said.
To illustrate the magnitude, Fort Worth has confronted a staggering 370 main breaches in this year alone, averaging two disruptions daily. Yet, a glaring spike is observed in recent data; a staggering 130 breaks have materialized in the past month, surging to an average of over four daily.
The restoration process is intricate and labor-intensive. Crews, already beleaguered by the incessant heat, are often stretched to their limits, necessitating frequent rotations.
“It is very weather-driven,” Gugliuzza said. “It does take time. Like I said, there’s a process we got to go through to make sure that we’re doing it right.”
The City of Fort Worth has mobilized sewer personnel
In an innovative strategy to mitigate the crisis, sewer personnel have been mobilized to address the burgeoning breaks. However, contingency plans are in place to enlist external contractors, should the severity escalate.
In a curious twist of irony, it’s the frigid embrace of winter, with its ultra-cold water, that typically makes the aged cast iron succumb.
“In the winter, it’s a short window, but the numbers are astronomical in that window,” Gugliuzza said.
She fervently urges citizens to remain vigilant, encouraging prompt reporting of any subterranean water emergence. A caveat: subtle drops in water pressure may often precede visible leaks.
“We don’t have eyes over the entire system,” Gugliuzza said. “There are over 3,700 miles of water mains in the city.”