New Braunfels residents in need of water on Friday flocked to stations set up by New Braunfels Utilities and city officials in the wake of outages throughout the city brought on by winter storms that brought ice, snow and sub-freezing temperatures to the area as well as rotating power blackouts.
The two entities set up stations at the Civic/Convention Center, New Braunfels City Hall, the NBU Main Office, the NBU Service Center, McKenna Events Center and Landa Haus for anyone needing water, regardless of where they lived.
Residents brought all sorts of containers and contraptions to the water station for filling — jugs, buckets, bottles and picnic coolers.
“With clean water, I can feed my kids, we can bathe,” said Stacy Marchioni, who was gathering water at the Civic/Convention Center. “It makes you really appreciate life.”
Oliver Johnson said they’ve been without water for four days and were hoping it will return soon.
“We’ve been okay,” Johnson said. “Without electricity, it was really cold, but we had plenty of food. One thing you don’t realize you really want is to wash dishes.”
Kassie Stuart was with her daughters Sophia, 10, and Delilah, 7.
“We enjoyed the snow for a while,” Stuart said. “I’m from here, and I remember it snowing in ’85 and had a lot of fun then,” Kassie Stuart said. “I’m glad they got to experience it, but I don’t remember the water going out when I was a kid.”
Debbie De La Cruz, who lives in Mockingbird Heights, said they’ve been without water for two days.
“We were proactive and filled tubs up first,” De La Cruz said. “We’ve been using that to flush toilets and our bottled water to wash hands and dishes. The tubs are low, so we need to fill up again.”
Waddell Walton, who lives in the Highland Vista area, filled up a picnic cooler with water at City Hall.
“We’ve had no water at the house for three days now,” Walton said. “We’re a whole lot relieved that we can get some water.”
Rick and Dawn Bartels said they were pleased that water was being offered.
“We can at least heat up some water in the microwave and wash some dishes,” Rick Bartels said. “Our neighbors in the Morningside area have been doing what we’ve been doing — collecting rainwater and snow and putting it in buckets.”
Lt. Greg Guenther with the New Braunfels Fire Marshal’s Office, who was among those helping residents at City Hall, said residents have been appreciative of the effort to get water to the community.
“We have a lot of citizens coming by,” Guenther said. “We’re staying busy. We’ve been glad to help them.”
Volunteers reminded residents that customers in the NBU service area were under a boil water notice, and they would need to boil the water provided by the public water station’s taps.
For more information about the boil water notice and steps to take, visit nbutexas.com/
Water stations at two locations, the Civic/Convention Center and NBU’s service center at 355 FM 306 will be open Saturday from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m.
Both locations will have potable drinking water and bread/dry goods for customer convenience. Residents can bring their containers, sizes up to a five-gallon bucket, to the water station for filling. Each location will have a marked route indicating the flow of traffic.
Besides water direct from the NBU water system, which is still subject to the boil water notice, the Civic/Convention Center location is also offering water that has gone through a purification process, eliminating the need to boil the water.
People should bring their container to the Castell Street entrance and request the purified water.
Residents can call 830-221-4002 for questions or more information regarding the water stations.
NBU on Friday said they anticipated that all customers without water would be restored by noon Saturday, but the boil order notice issued Wednesday would likely remain in effect through early next week.
“The problem we are facing is the incredible demand caused by water leaks and pipe breaks at homes and businesses that measured over 10 million gallons per day at the peak,” said Melissa Krause, NBU’s executive director of communications and external affairs. “Demand is still high, but enough leaks have been resolved that NBU’s pumps are keeping up and water tank volumes are holding. Tanks are currently filling faster than we estimated.”
However, Krause said customers should anticipate that they might not have full water pressure.
“We have made important progress in filling our tanks and finding leaks,” she said. “Many of you have flagged down our employees to report leaks, and we appreciate it.”
Common sources of leaks have been irrigation backflow preventers, hose bibs, outdoor water softeners and water services to vacant lots.
Businesses have had leaks inside from sources such as fire risers or overhead pipes.
“Refilling the water system only happens as quickly as the pumps can run,” Kruase said. “We are running at nearly full capacity with a few limitations due to planned maintenance and a few from freeze damage. If we could cut the tops off the tanks and have water dropped from helicopters, we would do it in an instant. We apologize to our customers that this is taking so long.”
The way the system is configured hydraulically, Krause said NBU developed a sequence to refill the system that minimizes the time to fill and best reduces the risk of losing large volumes of water to leaks.
“More customers will continue to come online throughout the day as tanks fill,” she said. “Unfortunately, we don’t anticipate being complete until Saturday, nor do we have specific predictions when particular neighborhoods will come online. It is frustratingly slow, but we’re going as fast as possible.”
According to NBU, its system has been pumping 28 million gallons per day during a time of year when the typical demand is about 10 to 12 million gallons a day.
NBU said at one point it had identified 5,000 customers with continuous water consumption, indicating significant leaks.
New Braunfels is not alone in its water woes, however.
Nearly half the state of Texas is facing disruptions to its water supply, ranging from having no running water at all to being forced to boil water before consuming it.
Residents can view a water outage map at https://bit.ly/3axh7oo.
The Texas Tribune contributed to this story.