Water utility preparing for power outages

Published on January 27, 2022

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Hopefully, Fort Worth will not see a repeat of the February 2021 winter storm. If it does, the water utility is better prepared to handle the high call volume.

The utility has nearly tripled its call center’s incoming lines to 250 and expanded reporting options beyond just phone calls. Customers can now report main breaks and water outages faster through the MyFW app, which can be downloaded from Google Play or the Apple Store.

Fort Worth is accelerating replacement of the 800 miles of cast iron water lines in the system. In 2021, the city approved construction contracts for replacing about 12 miles of cast iron water lines and issued engineering design contracts for another 32 miles of cast iron lines. In the current year’s budget, the City Council increased funding for water/wastewater rehabilitation projects by 17.79% to $77.6 million.

Also, the water utility has acquired propane heaters to thaw key pieces of outdoor equipment.

Additional measures in the works

Even before the storm event ended, Fort Worth’s water utility leaders were discussing ways to improve water system reliability, particularly in regards to power reliability improvements.

Having multiple water treatment plants with the ability to move water to any part of the city is how Fort Worth historically handled emergencies. Each water treatment plant has dual electrical feeds from electrical distribution lines, and backup generators are in place at several pump stations. Plus the utility has two large portable generators.

Resiliency fell short last February when power outages affected three of the four drinking water plants in service at the time. As a result, about 312,000 retail customers were under boil water notices, plus other communities that purchase water from Fort Worth.

Additional measures Fort Worth is planning include:

  • Working with Oncor to transition electrical service at the Eagle Mountain Water Treatment Plant from distribution lines to high-voltage lines. The Rolling Hills Water Treatment Plant is already on high-voltage lines and was the only plant that did not lose power.
  • Adding fixed backup generators to five pump stations, as well as adding backup power generation at the Westside, North Holly and South Holly water treatment plants. Bids were recently opened for the Westside Water Treatment Plant project and are being evaluated.
  • Enclosing the high-service pump stations at the Eagle Mountain and Westside water treatment plants. The city is evaluating construction bids for these projects.

It will take two to three years to have all the improvements operational. Supply chain issues may delay implementation schedules, and large diesel generators require obtaining air permits.

 

 

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