The Texas Water Crisis Shows Just How Inefficient Our Water Systems Are. Change Needs to Occur.
By Joanna Hou, Grade 12
As the winter storms swept through Texas, residents were left without several resources, including much needed electricity and food. However, even as these necessities are being replaced as the winter storm clears, Texans still lack a crucial component: clean drinking water.
The unexpected winter storm burst pipes across the state, leading water to become undrinkable. Furthermore, the wastewater cleaning plants used to keep water clean lost their power completely and couldn't control their sewage management. (1) That sewage waste went straight into the state's overall water supply. Millions of people in Texas were under a "boil water notice", indicating that the water wouldn't be consumable unless boiled. (2) But those were only for residents who were lucky enough to even receive water from their taps. Across the state, thousands of people couldn't even get access to water from their sinks and bottled water was all sold out.
It's also important to note the disparities behind water access for Texans. (3) Those in communities of color, or those who were low income were already much more susceptible to the cold. These are the same communities that were disproportionately affected by the dirtied water supply. It's often much harder for these communities to relocate or even get to water supplies provided by the state. It's often the groups facing the most challenges that are the first to get impacted by water crises, a pattern that we saw continue from the Flint Water crisis.
These two crises are probably just the beginning. As the world continues to warm, extreme weather will occur more regularly. (4) The truth is, we aren't prepared for that. Wastewater plants and water purification facilities in typically warm areas haven't been rebuilt for decades and aren't prepared for freezing or any other major changes. The technology we've created isn't sustainable because the world around us is warming to an intolerable rate.
Clean water is an essential part of human life and needs to be put at a higher priority. While what happened in Texas is devastating, the crisis gives everyone an opportunity to become more prepared in the future. While current water waste plants are not particularly sustainable, they can be, and Texas is a good place to start. By rebuilding our water supply, we can kill two birds with one stone, helping out our environment and ensuring that any quick changes in the environment won't have an impact on our most vulnerable communities.
There are several ways to approach more humane water systems. (5) While classic dams and groundwater supplies aren't very sustainable, there are new techniques being developed all the time, just waiting to be implemented. While current groundwater is wasteful, if we conserve the water and keep it rotating in a cycle, groundwater can become more sustainable. Other newer methods include rainwater harvesting (a more direct and less environmentally-damaging practice) and reclaimed water (water reused from human waste) can take some stress off the dam and groundwater systems, also helping with the environment.
Texas gives us the opportunity to see into the plethora of new challenges that might await us, but also serves as a warning sign. If officials start implementing new, environmentally-conscious water sources, we have the opportunity to start making changes now.
Cover Image: @galleryds on Unsplash