Saturday, August 6, 2011

Drought damages Texas infrastructure

Ari Auber in the Texas Tribune: When a wildfire chewed through power lines at a field of water wells in late June, Lubbock lost 9 million gallons of water a day during the nearly two weeks it took to finish repairs. In cities like Houston and Fort Worth, clay soil is drying up because of the blistering summer heat, bursting water pipelines, buckling house foundations and splitting asphalt roads. Across Texas, the cause of these spiraling problems is the same: a nine-month drought that shows no signs of relenting.

In West Texas, the main concern is water. A lightning strike near the Texas-New Mexico border sparked Lubbock's June wildfire, which knocked out 20 percent of the wells that provide water for the city, reducing supply for the next two weeks to 62 million gallons a day from 71 million gallons. The city was already restricting water use and has been in Stage 1 of its drought plan since 2006 (residents can only water two days a week from April through September) because its other water source, Lake Meredith, is critically low. After the fire, vegetation was cleared from the well fields to ensure that another fire would not threaten the city's water supply.

"If the fire had struck in a more crucial spot, we would not have been able to supply water to Lubbock," said Aubrey Spear, the city's water utilities director.

A five-hour drive to the east, Fort Worth is one of the rare Texas cities that has not established water restrictions — yet. But in July, there were more than 200 water main breaks due to shifting soil. On a single day in early July, residents reported 20 breaks....

A water tower at Amarillo College in Amarillo, Texas, shot by J. Nguyen, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Generic

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