Drought continues as Port Arthur and Mid County cities react to conservation and water line concerns

Published 12:32 am Saturday, August 19, 2023

Mandated water conservation isn’t on the radar for cities in Port Arthur and Mid County, though neighboring areas are looking at restrictions.

Officials with Port Arthur, Nederland, Groves and Port Neches report no water supply issues as of Thursday.

Port Arthur City Manager Ron Burton said there is no plan to call for water conservation as the management of water is going well.

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The problem at this time is infrastructure.

“We had almost 200 water line breaks last week and we are responding in a timely manner,” Burton said.

The amount of water line breaks varies; some days the city receives calls for about 30 breaks, another day there may be 60 or 70 calls.

City leaders are considering a water rate hike to help deal with the aging infrastructure.

“If we had followed the plan by the consultant three, four years ago, Port Arthur water infrastructure would be in much better shape now,” he said.

Nederland City Manager Chris Duque said the city purchases raw water from the Lower Neches Valley Authority and has a drought contingency plan in place, which is triggered by lake levels. So far there has been no indication of any issues.

And while Nederland isn’t asking residents to conserve water, authorities are tracking consumption, which is higher than normal.

Current drought conditions have led to a number of water line breaks in the city. Wednesday there were three, one severe, while some days there may be between five to seven water line breaks.

One Monday the city experienced a major water line break, which led to a boil water notice as water pressure dropped.

The break has since been repaired and the boil water notice rescinded.

The City of Port Neches is not looking into conservation requirements at this time either. The only change is the closing of the city’s splash pad, an official said.

Groves Interim City Manager Lance Billeaud said currently the water plan is under normal operations. The only change officials are looking at is closing the spray park after Sunday for the week, then opening on the weekends until Labor Day — which they always do.

“The city of Groves is running normal,” Billeaud said.

Groves does have some water line break issues due to the drought.

Billeaud said they are aggressive in repairing the few leaks they get.

Jefferson County Water and Control District No. 10 asked customers to voluntarily conserve water in a bid to prevent future restrictive measures, according to a Facebook post. On Thursday WCID 10 joined several other local cities with having to make repairs for a major water leak. The leak has been repaired.

Earlier this week, leaders in the City of Beaumont announced mandatory water restrictions. They are now limiting irrigation of landscaped areas, limiting washing vehicles and discounting filling, refilling and adding water to pools and jacuzzis.

They have also added designated watering days to further conserve water.

Bridge City on Thursday asked residents for voluntary water use reduction as part of their drought contingency plan.

The drought and excessive heat has led to a number of wildfires in the area. Last week about 800 acres of land in Sabine Pass north of the Sabine Pass Battlegrounds Historical Site were scorched in a fire and Wednesday another fire occurred near the Intracoastal Canal Bridge.

A grass fire near the City of Port Arthur’s landfill on Texas 73 led to the closure of a section of roadway both east and westbound Wednesday.

The road reopened at approximately 8:10 a.m. Thursday.

The current drought will likely continue, as rainfall isn’t being predicted any time soon.

National Weather Service-Lake Charles Meteorologist Cameron Kowalski said there is no huge relief in sight in terms of drought relief in the next seven days.

A broad area of low pressure could form in the Gulf of Mexico next week, but there is no clear indication of how well it would develop, adding they will have to wait and watch the models.

Kowalski said the Beaumont/Port Arthur area is currently 10.45 inches below normal in terms of rainfall.

“Normally we have about 37 inches now for the year and we are only 26.68 inches,” Kowalski said.

The last significant amount of rainfall in the area was July 23.