The winter weather crisis has turned into a water crisis for many North Texans, leaving people scrambling to make sure their water is safe and their pipes are protected.
Here’s what you need to know.
The easiest way to prepare for a boil notice is to store bottled water at home before an emergency. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends storing one gallon of water per person a day for at least three days or up to two weeks.
If you can collect water before a boil notice, the CDC recommends sanitizing the containers before filling them. It also recommends replacing collected water every six months and storing it in a place between 50 and 70 degrees and away from sunlight and places where toxic chemicals or gasoline are stored.
Rosa Mendoza washes her hands as David Sanroman, 7, pours water from a bottle after the power came back on at their Piedmont Addition apartment in Dallas on Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2021. Mendoza’s pipes burst yesterday and hasn’t had consistent power. (Juan Figueroa/ The Dallas Morning News)(Juan Figueroa / Staff photographer)
In general, people should skip long showers or baths to help conserve water during a boil advisory. But if you must do either of those, you should be OK if you can take a shower or bath without getting water in your mouth. You may also be able to wash your hands with soap and water safely, but check with local officials.
It’s important not to ingest any water that hasn’t been boiled. Only use boiled or bottled water if you’re putting it in your mouth, even if you’re just brushing your teeth.
However, many cities across Texas are encouraging people to use water only if absolutely necessary.
Although backcountry campers may be able to use mountain snow to heat and drink, in urban areas snow is not always as clean. Exhaust in the air and chemicals on the ground could be in the snow near you.
To make snow safe to use, you have to boil it. Because you’re taking the water from frozen to more than 200 degrees, it takes a long time — and a lot of fuel — to bring it up to a safe temperature. You’ll need to collect more snow than you may think to get even a little water. As the snow melts, the water fills less volume than snow does.
Boiling the melted snow for at least 60 seconds and up to five minutes will kill any pathogens — living germs — in your water. But you may want to consider filtering your water to remove heavy metals and other pollutants. Professional filters will help remove most of these particles if you intend to use the water for cooking or cleaning.
All in all, it can be an expensive and time- and fuel-consuming process. If possible, get bottled water to skip the hassle.
Maintenance workers fix the busted pipe at Rosa Mendoza’s Piedmont Addition home in Dallas on Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2021. The family’s pipes burst Tuesday and hasn’t had consistent power. (Juan Figueroa/The Dallas Morning News via AP)(Juan Figueroa)
To stave off the freeze, Dallas Water Utilities suggests you:
- Find exposed pipes in unheated parts of your home, such as outside or in the attic, and make sure they are wrapped to keep them insulated.
- Remove garden hoses from outside faucets and insulate them with hard foam covers or cloth.
- For pier-and-beam foundations, cover vents around the foundation.
- Learn how to shut off water from your home in case of emergency.
If you have a major break in your pipes, turn off the water supply to your house as soon as possible to avoid further damage.
You should also contact your insurance agent quickly because many other Texans may be filing claims in the coming days.
If you live in an apartment, shutting off the main water supply may be out of your control. But be in contact with management.
Each home is different, but it is easiest to start by looking either near your water heater indoors or at your water meter outdoors.
For many homes in Texas, the shut-off is underground near the street. Because of snow buildup, it may be buried, so it is important to know where your valve is before an emergency. Open the plastic cover of the utilities box and use a wrench to close the valve inside.
Below is a video that explains how you can turn of your water at home in a few easy steps. It was produced by a community vendor. We don’t endorse the vendor and there are many professional plumbers that you can use if needed during this weather event. https://t.co/Pn6jIffbC8
— City of Arlington (@CityOfArlington) February 17, 2021
If your pipes freeze and you shut off the water to your home, open a major line faucet inside, such as a bathtub, so if water in the pipes begins to melt, it has somewhere to go.
Most pools will be fine with a thin layer of ice, but significant freezing can lead to costly damage to pipes and pumps. Make sure any outdoor or above-ground pipes are insulated and try to keep your pump working to circulate water and keep it from freezing.
If you lose power and your pump freezes, damage may be unavoidable. Call a pool technician for an inspection if you’re concerned about your pool’s functionality.