At a Nov. 30 Houston City Council meeting, council members passed several agenda items relating to emergency water line repairs and inspections aimed at alleviating the strain on Houston’s aging underground infrastructure, and mitigating existing and future water leaks.

“These items, just so that the public knows, relate to the increase in water main breaks that we continue to see throughout the city—that are a direct result of the increase in drought—which, unfortunately, we are continually going to see this trend throughout the years,” District C Council Member Abbie Kamin said during the Nov. 30 meeting.

The city approved approximately $17.3 million for water line repairs and $4.1 million for water line inspections.

Kamin also cited ongoing water main issues in District C, which covers western parts of Houston's Inner Loop as well as the Garden Oaks and Meyerland areas. The issues, she said, include a water main break crews have been working on for nearly a year.

At the meeting, Kamin asked if the city is monitoring the issue to not only modernize the infrastructure, but also to educate the public on it.

Mayor Sylvester Turner said the city aims to have contractors preselected and on-call in the event of another water main break.

Vice Mayor Pro Tem Martha Castex-Tatum said there is a correlation between issues of water leaks and Houstonians who are facing higher-than-average water bills.

“Over the last several months, we are receiving so many complaints about the cost of people's water bills, and when they see water running for long periods of time, there is a correlation of, well, who's paying for this water that's running in our streets?” Castex-Tatum said.

In some instances, as noted by District I Council Member Robert Gallegos, the fix is simple. However, because of old pipes and outdated maps, the valves to stop leaks are hard to find, he said.

One agenda item was approved granting spending authority to Hydromax USA for water valve repairs; three items granted spending authority for water line repairs; and two items granted spending authority for waterline inspections. In each instance, authorization was given to issue purchase orders for a nine-month period for the Houston Public Works Department.