For the 182nd time over the last 30 days, City of Fort Worth Public Works Department members had to respond to a call about a broken water main disrupting traffic.
Residents of the Arlington Heights district had reported the emergency after hearing the sound of water rushing in the early morning hours of Tuesday.
The emergency sent water gushing skyward 40 feet, requiring the Fort Worth Police Department to block off traffic near the intersection of Lisbon Street and Landers Street north of West Vickery Boulevard.
As of 6 a.m. on Wednesday, municipal crews had not yet been able to fix this latest water main break. Neighbors in the area had not reported a loss of water in their residences, which suggests that enough fluid pressure was being pumped despite the incident.
The City of Fort Worth has had its hands full with this kind of emergency since June, when temperatures began climbing and drought conditions started setting in. Nevertheless, these emergency repairs are usually completed within hours, with minimal interruption to water flow in the affected districts.
Earlier this week, the City of Fort Worth posted a Twitter update explaining that the number of water main break incidents since the middle of June was equivalent to nearly 40% of what they normally experience over an entire year.
The problem is reportedly directly related to climate conditions in North Texas this year.
When the ground surface is impacted by extreme temperatures and long periods of no rain, the soil underneath shifts, thus forcing ruptures in the underground water distribution system.
Water main breaks caused by shifting ground are more common in highly seismic regions such as Southern California, but the long-term effects of unfavorable climate conditions are bringing this type of issue to the Lone Star State.
In the afternoon hours of July 18, the City of Fort Worth was dealing with four simultaneous water main breaks in various districts.
While these incidents do not immediately result in water restrictions, workers often have to cut off the water supply as they repair the pipes. This means that entire neighborhoods can be without water for hours.
It is important to note that main breaks are often tied to the condition of the concrete and asphalt that encases the pipes. Many sectors of Fort Worth are in need of asphalt replacement, but these replacements have been delayed by a shortage in the workforce among public works contractors.
The Fort Worth Water Management Department estimates that 800 miles of cast iron pipes are waiting to be replaced around the city. Most of the water main breaks reported in recent weeks have involved cast iron pipes, which do not perform well under the current climate conditions.
Replacing these old pipes is now a major priority for the city; new and advanced pipe materials are more durable and flexible, which means that they are better suited to withstand the conditions being created by changes in the climate.
The problem is not limited to Fort Worth; more than 60 water main breaks were reported over the weekend in Dallas.