More than 12 million Texans have no access to drinking water

Nearly 12 million Texans now face water supply interruptions. Local authorities prohibit drinking tap water and must boil it because of the risk of poisoning, as the state’s water system collapsed after the power grid due to severe frost.

After several days of winter storms, to prevent frozen pipes from bursting, local authorities are imposing additional safety measures. Among them is to use tap water as little as possible, much less drink it. Urban water levels have become dangerously low, and the water itself may not be safe. People are being asked to conserve water if at all possible.

About 590 public water systems in 141 Texas counties have reported failures, affecting nearly 12 million people as of Wednesday afternoon, according to a spokesman for the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. “Water pressure is very low. Please do not turn on the water so the pipes do not burst. Be careful how you use water today – it’s most needed for hospitals and firefighting,” Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner wrote Wednesday morning.

At a news conference Wednesday, TCEQ Executive Director Toby Baker said the water quality problems were due to a lack of power, frozen and broken water lines, and people starting to stockpile water from the system, causing a drop in pressure. He said testing will be needed to demonstrate that the water is safe, but in the meantime the water needs to be boiled.