SAN ANTONIO – San Antonio Water System customers should boil their water before drinking it until further notice.
That recommendation came from SAWS President and CEO Robert Puente during Wednesday’s emergency city council meeting.
Puente said the boil water notice comes out of “an abundance of caution” due to low water pressure and said that only water used for drinking needed to be boiled. Puente said tap water is safe to use to wash hands and to bathe, but for drinking, it should be boiled for two minutes.
“It is safe to say that we’re going to be dealing with this situation for days, not hours,” Puente said. “This situation is likely to get worse and more pipes on private property will experience breakages, and we will have a more difficult problem with maintaining pressure.”
Puente said that as long as there are electricity outages, there will be water issues.
SAWS officials said most of the outages are concentrated in the far North Side of the city or on the far South Side. He said while there are small pockets of water outages in the middle of the city, low water pressure was a bigger issue for most customers.
He also said that the lack of power isn’t the only issue for water customers right now. He said because there are so many broken pipes in the city, a tremendous amount of water is leaking and not getting to customers. He said because of leaks, the city is using more water than we do on some of our hottest summer days.
District 8 Councilman Manny Pelaez asked SAWS officials how people could be expected to boil water without electricity.
Puente said SAWS officials would meet with H-E-B soon to coordinate a way to get water to residents who need it.
Steve Clouse. Senior Vice President & Chief Operating Officer of SAWS told council members that CPS Energy asked SAWS to take their pumping stations off of the “critical circuits” when ERCOT’s rolling outages started. He said that’s why SAWS pumps lost power this week.
“What we’re under is probably once in a generation, once in a lifetime type of storm,” Puente said. “SAWS is our energy’s biggest power consumer and CPS Energy is the biggest user of water in our community. So we’ve been coordinating with each other. We’ve been working with each other and trying to let each other know what is going on and what is the best way to conserve power and conserve energy.”
Puente asked customers to be patient saying that he recognized many customers have tried to call and are not able to get through.
“Our customer service representatives have been working from home because of the COVID pandemic, but now, unfortunately, their own homes are without power,” Puente said. “They don’t have it or they don’t have internet services. So that is causing an inability for us to answer the phones and to get answers out to the public and to our community.”
Puente said this week has been a learning experience.
“We will use this particular emergency to reevaluate what worked and what did not work. Whether it’s our equipment, our workers, our responses, our dispatch, our communications, everything will be something that we will be looking at and wanting to improve on the promise I am making to each one of you,” Puente said.