There is no doubt that New Braunfels Utilities (NBU), along with much of Texas, has experienced an extraordinary week.
We know it has been a long week, and our NBU customers have been inconvenienced greatly, to say the least. Every NBU employee has worked tirelessly throughout the week to make the best effort to keep essential services running.
"This week, we experienced an unprecedented winter storm across our region testing the resiliency of equipment, the electric grid, and many times our patience." said Ian Taylor, ''NBU's Chief Executive Officer." Each NBU employee has worked with one goal in mind – to restore power and water to every customer. I have witnessed the dedication, hard work, and unwavering determination of NBU employees throughout this situation and can confidently say our county, city, and customers are in good hands. We want to thank all of our customers for their patience and encouragement. We are proud to serve you."
As you know, we went into the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) Emergency Energy Alert Level 3 at 1:30 a.m. on Monday morning. We continued there until this morning when ERCOT lifted the levels from 3 to 2 to 1. Now we are pleased to announce that there is enough generation on the electric system to return to more normal operating conditions, ending nearly five days of rotating outages. While neighboring utilities continue to experience power outages not related to the ERCOT rotating outages, NBU electric crews worked managed area, "I am so proud of the entire team for their work and dedication in extreme weather conditions. With that said, we have been able to reallocate the majority of our linemen to focus on the water issues to serve our customers," said Ryan Kelso, Chief Operations Officer at NBU.
As electric systems return to normal operating conditions, NBU continues to advise customers to continue to practice common-sense conservation measures that reduce energy consumption and help to manage utility costs. As a reminder, small steps can make a big difference during the remainder of the winter like:
- Set thermostats to 68 degrees while at home or as low as comfortably tolerable.
- Set ceiling fans to the winter setting by running them clockwise to pull the warm air down.
- Ensure doors and windows are sealed properly. Any light through the door indicates a penetration of cold air coming into the home.
- Turn off lights, computers, and other electronic devices whenever possible.
On the water operation front, NBU initiated a boil water notice on Wednesday, February 17, which continues to be in effect, likely through early next week. New Braunfels Utilities' water infrastructure is working as designed. The problem we are facing is the incredible demand caused by water leaks and pipe breaks at homes and businesses that measured over 10 million gallons per day at the peak. Demand is still high, but enough leaks have been resolved that NBU's pumps are keeping up and water tank volumes are holding. Tanks are currently filling faster than we estimated.
Our crews anticipate all customers currently without water should be restored by no later than noon tomorrow, Saturday. Please note, customers should anticipate that they will not have full water pressure. We have made important progress in filling our tanks and finding leaks. Many of you have flagged down our employees to report leaks, and we appreciate it! Common sources of leaks have been irrigation backflow preventers, hose bibs, outdoor water softeners, and water services to vacant lots. Businesses have had leaks inside from sources such as fire risers or overhead pipes. Thank you for reporting water outages to our online reporting form. We are gathering that data and have compiled a heat map to identify our trouble areas.
Refilling the water system only happens as quickly as the pumps can run. We are running at nearly full capacity with a few limitations due to planned maintenance and a few from freeze damage. If we could cut the tops off the tanks and have water dropped from helicopters, we would do it in an instant. We apologize to our customers that this is taking so long. The way the system is configured hydraulically, we developed a sequence to refill the system that minimizes the time to fill and best reduces the risk of losing large volumes of water to leaks. More customers will continue to come online throughout the day as tanks fill. Unfortunately, we don't anticipate being complete until Saturday, nor do we have specific predictions when particular neighborhoods will come online. It is frustratingly slow, but we're going as fast as possible.
In the interim, the City of New Braunfels and NBU have teamed up to help provide water to all NBU customers who are currently without water. At present, we have six watering stations throughout the community, ready to service our customers:
Civic & Convention Center
375 S. Castell Avenue
New Braunfels City Hall
550 Landa Street
NBU Main Office
263 Main Plaza
NBU Service Center
355 FM 306
McKenna Events Center
801 W. San Antonio Street
360 Aquatic Circle
Residents need to bring their containers, sizes up to a five-gallon bucket, to the water station for filling. Each location will have a marked route indicating the flow of traffic.
As a reminder, NBU customers are under a boil water notice and will need to boil the water provided by the public water station's taps. For more information about the boil water, notice, and steps to take, visit nbutexas.com/winter-storm-resources.
The water stations will be open Friday, February 19, 2021, from 10:00 a.m. until 7:00 p.m. The Civic and Convention Center Water Station remains operating as a warming center and has potable drinking water and bread/dry goods for customer convenience.
City of New Braunfels and NBU staff, along with volunteers, look forward to greeting our community's residents.
We are all in this together and are looking forward to brighter days.