Thanks to planning several decades ago, the City of Longview maintained an adequate supply of water to serve its residents as well as several adjacent communities during this past week’s winter storm.
Nearby cities, including Kilgore and Tyler, asked residents to boil water as power outages shuttered treatment plants and left pressure so low that it made water unfit for human consumption.
In Longview, the situation was much different. While the city experienced an increase in water use, it never limited capacity or issued boil water notices.
Longview Mayor Andy Mack said he attributes the city’s success to thoughtful planning decades ago, the city’s dedicated Public Works staff, multiple water sources and treatment plants, and an abundant capacity.
“Longview has been very fortunate with water supply throughout this winter storm,” Mack said Thursday. “I want to thank our staff in the Public Works Department for their diligence in keeping the system operating well throughout these very difficult weather conditions. We’ve seen some higher than normal water usage, but they’ve done a great job under the circumstances.”
Longview draws its water supply from three primary sources — the Sabine River, Lake Cherokee and Lake o’ the Pines — and the city also has three water treatment plants. Those facilities are capable of delivering 52 million gallons per day, according to the city.
The city reported that typical usage is between 10 million gallons and 15 million gallons per day. Although usage increased this past week, the system was still only using about 50% of the overall 52 million gallon capacity, according to the city.
“We are thankful to be well positioned for water supply for many years into the future to meet the needs of not just Longview residents but also serve as a regional provider,” Mack said. “For instance, we have contracts to provide additional water supply to several communities in the region including Elderville, Hallsville, Gum Springs and White Oak.”
Additionally, all of the city’s water facilities maintained power throughout the week.
In Tyler, the city experienced many factors that contributed to its water loss. A combination of main breaks due to cold weather and rolling blackouts caused a power loss at the Lake Palestine pump station. As a result, the city issued a boil water notice.
Once power was restored to the Lake Palestine pump, the city had to then prepare for water treatment. The city stated the overall water treatment process takes about 12 hours to complete.
Unlike Gregg County, Smith County is part of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) power grid. While Gregg, Upshur, Harrison and Panola counties are not part of ERCOT’s map, neighboring Smith and Rusk counties are.
So when ERCOT implemented massive, almost statewide rolling blackouts this past week, many facilities in Smith and Rusk counties were impacted.
Meanwhile, in Kilgore — which is partially in Gregg County and partially in Rusk County — the city experienced a massive water loss that seemed to be unrelated to a power outage. Rather, the city said its crews worked to identify and repair leaks in an effort to restore water to residents.
Like many neighboring cities, Kilgore had an opportunity to partner with Longview for water resources; however, in 2014, a water deal fell through after hesitancy from then-newly elected council members and statements from former Kilgore elected officials who warned against working with Longview.
“I think you could say that the deal is off,” Jay Dean, who served as Longview’s mayor at the time, said in 2014. “I was disgusted and disappointed that they were hesitant because of political reason. And then some of the statements made by former politicians in Kilgore and city employees questioning the integrity of the City of Longview, I felt like enough was enough. If they want water, we have water for sale, but from my standpoint that is where the deal died.”
Neighboring cities, such as nearby Hallsville and White Oak, that contract with Longview did not issue boil water notices this past week.
Mack said Thursday he asked city staff to reach out to surrounding communities that were forced to issue boil water notices to see about providing assistance to them.
“We feel bad for our surrounding communities who have had to ration and boil water,” he said, “and I’ve asked our staff to reach out to those communities to provide whatever assistance we can now or as they plan their long-term solutions for their water needs.”