How to navigate the boil water notice and freezing, bursting pipes

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Photo Credit: Jack Myer | Daily Texan Staff

Many UT students in Riverside, North Campus and West Campus have frozen or busted pipes in their apartments or are experiencing water outages amid the inclement weather. Austin Water is advising community members to take steps to prevent frozen and busted pipes and informing people on what they can do if this does happen in their homes.

Some apartment buildings in Riverside, North Campus and West Campus have sent notifications to tenants to take preventative measures such as opening cabinet doors and wrapping pipes. Customers can call Austin Water’s 24/7 emergency hotline at 512-972-1000 to shut off their water if their pipes burst or their waterline breaks.  

 The Daily Texan has compiled a list of ways to prepare for or address frozen or busted pipes and the citywide boil water notice.

What to do during the citywide boil water notice

Austin Water issued a citywide boil water notice Wednesday at 8:30 p.m. due to power loss at the city’s largest water treatment facility, the Ullrich Water Treatment Plant, and drops in water pressure below minimum standards. 

⚫ Do not consume or use water for cooking unless it is boiled. You can shower and wash your hands with the water coming out of the tap. Do not brush your teeth without boiling first. Do not consume water from any appliance connected to your water line, even if it has been run through a water filter. Ice makers should be turned off. Any water ingested or put into your mouth should be boiled first.

  • ⚫ Residents should use hot, soapy water to wash dishes and boiled water to rinse them. Dishwashers are safe to use but should not be used during this time in order to conserve both energy and water.  

  • ⚫ When boiling water while your area is under a boil water notice, bring water to a full rolling boil for two minutes. After it cools, it is ready for use.

What else should Austin residents be doing right now?

On Wednesday, Austin Water director Greg Meszaros said the city needs customers to stop dripping faucets to conserve water.

⚫ Do not fill up bathtubs in preparation for a water outage. 

  • ⚫ Refrain from using appliances such as dishwashers and washers to conserve water.

  • ⚫ Do not drip faucets. In freezing weather, it is typically recommended to do this, but given the low energy supply, this is not recommended. 

How does a water pipe burst?

According to USA Today, a pipe burst occurs when water inside of a plumbing pipe freezes, causing the water to expand and burst the pipe open from internal pressure. A pipe can either crack open or leak as a result.

How to prevent a water pipe from freezing

⚫ Open the bathroom and kitchen cabinet doors beneath sinks for air to circulate. 

  • ⚫ Wrap all exposed pipes in towels to keep warm.

  • ⚫ Letting faucets drip is usually a good way to prevent pipes from freezing, but Austin Water advises not to do this in this specific situation.

How to identify and thaw a frozen pipe

  • ⚫ One indicator that a pipe is frozen is a light stream of water coming out when the faucet is turned on. This could also be an indicator of low water pressure or that your water has been turned off.

  • ⚫ Attempt to heat the pipe in cool areas, if noticeable. This can be done by using a hairdryer, heating pad, space heater or wrapping the pipe in towels.

  • ⚫ Do not run water through the faucet to help thaw the frozen water.

What to do if a pipe bursts

⚫ Figure out in advance who to contact within your apartment complex in the event of a pipe bursting. Physically write down or save this number in case you lose power, your electronic device dies or you do not have internet connection.

  • ⚫ For those who live in a house, turn off the direct source of water to the house.

  • ⚫ Make a plan for relocating if your apartment floods. UT has opened several warming centers for students located at the Texas Union, Gregory Gym and the San Jacinto Residence Hall. The city of Austin has also opened multiple warming centers, and a list containing locations and names of these facilities can be found here. Community members can also call 512-305-ICEE for the most updated information.

  • ⚫ Student Emergency Services is working to provide emergency housing to students in compromised situations. According to previous reporting by The Daily Texan, it is unknown at time of publication if this housing has run out.

  • ⚫ Gov. Greg Abbott said in a Wednesday press conference if residents don’t have property or renters insurance, they may qualify for assistance through FEMA or individual assistance to help with repair costs.

Editor's Note: This story has been corrected to show that you should not brush your teeth without boiling the water first. The Texan regrets this error.

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