Waco Mayor Dillon Meek pleaded with residents in a video Wednesday afternoon to cut back on water use to relieve an “unprecedented” strain on the city water system caused by power outages, leaks and hoarding caused by false rumors.
Meek asked water customers to conserve water for 48 hours to allow treatment and storage systems to recover, reducing the risk of a pressure loss that could threaten vulnerable residents and fire safety.
“We are not out of the woods,” Meek said. “If power were cut off at either of our plants it would be a real challenge to keep our pressure up. Boil water notices will be likely if we lose power at one of these facilities or if more leaks occur.”
Such a notice could add to the hardship of people who have no electricity with which to boil water, he said.
Residents need to hold off on running washing machines and dishwashers, and avoid hoarding water. They should report any leaks they see to the city at 299-2489.
Meek said the water system, which supplies water well beyond the city of Waco, faced a threefold challenge starting Tuesday.
First, the Riverside Treatment plant lost power Tuesday, causing a shortfall of millions of gallons that would otherwise flow to water storage tanks.
Power was restored to the plant late Tuesday, but in the meantime, the Mount Carmel plant started to have “major systems malfunctions,” Meek said.
Then rumors started circulating online, similar to reports around the state, that the city was about to shut off its water system and that customers should reserve water.
The resulting hoarding, combined with leaks around the city, taxed the system, resulting in one of the city’s six pressure planes to experience six times its normal pressure.
Crews worked all night to manage the crisis and re-establish capacity, Meek said.
City Council Member Hector Sabido released a version of the video message in Spanish.