By David Taylor
CROSBY – Steady 100-degree temperatures have forced the board of the Newport Municipal Utility District to elevate their status to Level 4, their highest, and immediately begin implementation of their Drought Contingency Plan for mandatory water conservation.
Board president Margarette Chasteen said the amount of water coming out of the plant on Sunday triggered the higher level.
“We can produce 2.44 million gallons per day, but Sunday we produced 2.9 million,” she said.
Chasteen said they began with a Stage 1 alert that was a voluntary request for reduction in water usage earlier.
“That equates to a 5 percent reduction,” she said.
The demand at the water treatment plant continued to rise and so did the elevation of the drought warning to a Stage 2 with hopes of saving 10 percent in water reduction and demand.
“On Sunday, we went straight from Stage 2 to Stage 4 which can be critical for our systems,” she warned.
Since the beginning of the drought, Chasteen reported the MUD district has faced at least one main water break per day and up to as many as three.
“What that means is they have to shut the water off, dig down to find the leak, make the repair and turn the water back on,” she said.
The good news is the repairs are done within three to four hours.
“We have an awesome crew taking care of us,” she said.
Back at the office, boil water notices were being fired off to neighborhoods with the leaks and repairs.
The ground, she said, is like powder with no rain and extremely high temperatures.
Chasteen said the last time the district had been at a Level 4 drought plan was in 2011.
“We get our water from the San Jacinto River. Fortunately, the lake level has been maintained since they get water from both the San Jacinto and the Trinity River,” she said.
Incoming water goes through the treatment plant and pushed up through the tower where it’s dispersed to taps throughout the community.
Infrastructure work is not ‘sexy,’ she said, because it’s underground and no one sees it or complains about it until their water or sewer has trouble.
“Our water and sewer lines are concrete, and more than 50-60 years old and crumbling. We’re due for replacement and we’ve finished about four sections,” she said.
Engineers had told them to bet on at least 30 percent replacement, but the district ended up with closer to 55 percent instead.
“Water lines are normally six feet deep, but ours are at 12 feet which also makes it a little more expensive,” she said.
The district is now requesting all its customers to participate in the district’s mandatory water conservation efforts.
Failure to do so could mean a loss in water pressure which could be disastrous.
“We even asked the volunteer fire department to get their water for training elsewhere until conditions get better,” she said.
Crosby Fire Chief Alan Kulak said the department must continue with training and now draw their water from new subdivision SweetGrass Village.
“We understand the situation and happy to take it from SweetGrass. They don’t have taps yet and we’re able to draw water from them for the firemen to get their practice in,” he said.
Kulak said they were very concerned about the fire danger the community is in right now.
“I’ve never seen a posted Red Flag for Crosby since I’ve been here fighting fires,” he said.
According to the National Weather Service, “A Red Flag warning means warm temperatures, very low humidities, and stronger winds are expected to produce an increased risk of fire danger.”
Harris County is also under a strict burn ban.
“Something as simple as throwing a cigarette out, or sparks from an ATV in grass, or charcoal from grilling could easily become a major fire,” Kulak warned. “We’re in a dire situation.”
The fire department has already been fighting numerous grass fires.
“The district requests that all water consumers restrict any ‘non-essential’ water use,” she said.
According to their website, that includes “water that is not essential for the protection of public health, safety, and welfare, including landscape irrigation, use of water to wash down side walks, walkways, driveways, parking lots, tennis courts, or other hard surfaces. The use of water to wash any motor vehicle, motorbike travel trailer, boat, or trailer. Flushing gutters, fill or refill to add water to any pool or jacuzzi-type pools or use of hydrants for construction purpose or any other purpose other than fighting fire are all prohibited.”
Penalties will be stiff for violators. After legal notice, the board could punish violators up to $500 for the first violation. A second violation could lead to termination of water service and a penalty up to $10,000.
To report leaks or line breaks, please contact the district at 281-324-9803. For email alerts, sign up on the district’s website at www.newportmudtx.org.