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Cracked pipes, frozen wells, offline treatment plants: a Texan water crisis.


As power began to flicker back on across much of Texas, millions across the state confronted another dire crisis: a shortage of drinkable water as pipes cracked, wells froze and water treatment plants were knocked offline.

The problems were especially acute at hospitals. One, in Austin, was forced to move some of its most critically ill patients to another building when its faucets ran nearly dry. Another in Houston had to haul in water on trucks to flush toilets.

But for many of the state’s residents stuck at home, the emergency meant boiling the tap water that trickled through their faucets, scouring stores for bottled water or boiling icicles and dirty snow on their stoves.

For others, it meant no water at all. Denise Gonzalez, 40, had joined a crowd at a makeshift relief center in a working-class corner of West Dallas on Thursday where volunteers handed out food from the luggage compartment of a charter bus.

Back at her apartment, she said, the lights were finally back on. But her pipes were frozen solid. She could not bathe, shower or use the toilet. She said she had been calling plumbers all day, but one of the few who answered told her it would be $3,000 to come out to assess the damage.

“If I had $3,000,” Ms. Gonzalez said, “I wouldn’t be getting food from people on the bus.”

Major disruptions to the Texas power grid left more than four million households without power this week, but by Friday morning, only about 200,000 lacked electricity. Much of the statewide concern had turned to water woes.

More than 800 public water systems serving 162 of the state’s 254 counties had been disrupted as of Thursday, affecting 13.1 million people, according to a spokeswoman for the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.

The problems with water infrastructure extended to Tennessee on Friday, when all passenger flights at Memphis International Airport were canceled because of low water pressure, the facility announced.

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