Facing Down Texas’s Winter Storm

By Kris Polly 

The February 2021 winter storm affected huge portions of the United States, but none more seriously than Texas. The famously hot, arid state was plunged into freezing, even subzero, temperatures, and suffered major power outages. Municipal water providers across the state had to keep up their indispensable services amid freezes, blackouts, and unprecedented levels of demand from consumers worried about running out of water. 

In our cover story, we hear about how Tarrant Regional Water District (TRWD), the water wholesaler for the Fort Worth region, had to navigate major power outages and freezes. TRWD Director of Operations Darrell Beason and Water Resource Engineering Director Rachel Ickert tell us about how the district decided to temporarily shut down the TRWD transmission system to avoid an unplanned stoppage in power and how district operations staff improvised and innovated to protect and access equipment. 

We also hear the City of Forth Worth’s side of the story from Public Relations and Communications Coordinator Mary Gugliuzza. Fort Worth’s water system suffered power outages and 720 main breaks during the storm, and its customer service hotlines were overwhelmed with calls. Hard work by city staff helped it rebound. 

The Houston-area San Jacinto River Authority (SJRA) fared well during the storm: Its backup generators, emergency readiness plans, and large inventory allowed it to provide uninterrupted service and even to aid other agencies and facilities with drinking water. SJRA General Manager Jace Houston and Operations Manager Jason Williams tell us more. 

Similarly, we hear from Gulf Coast Water Authority Chief of Staff Jake Hollingsworth about how his agency’s public-private partnership with an energy company meant that it never lost power and was even able to perform above its rated capacity. 

Finally, we speak with Josef Reschreiter of RACI and Brad Mehalko of Dallas-headquartered Public Works Products, Inc., the exclusive master distributor of RACI casing spacers, about the advantages of RACI spacers and how the company is seeking to expand its reach across North America. 

Texas’s reaction to the February storm shows municipal water suppliers at their most impressive: Battling natural disaster to supply their life-giving services. I hope you find their stories inspiring. 

Kris Polly is the editor-in-chief of Municipal Water Leader magazine and the president and CEO of Water Strategies LLC, a government relations firm he began in February 2009 for the purpose of representing and guiding water, power, and agricultural entities in their dealings with Congress, the Bureau of Reclamation, and other federal government agencies. He can be contacted at kris.polly@waterstrategies.com.