EGU General Assembly 2022
© Author(s) 2022. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Public Drinking Water Access in Texas (United States) Communities During The Winter Storm 2021

Brianna Tomko1, Audrey H. Sawyer1, Xavier Sánchez-Vila2, and Christine Nittrouer3
Brianna Tomko et al.
  • 1The Ohio State University, School of Earth Sciences, Columbus, United States of America
  • 2Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Barcelona, Spain
  • 3Texas Tech University, Department of Management, Rawls College of Business, Lubbock, United States of America

The Winter Storm of February 2021 left millions of Americans in Gulf Coast states without access to reliable, clean domestic water during the COVID19 pandemic. In the state of Texas, over 17 million people served by public drinking water systems were placed under boil water advisories for periods ranging from one day to more than one month. We combine public boil water advisory data with demographic information from the 2010 United States Census to understand the affected populations. Additionally, we are conducting a survey of over 350 households in Texas to portray the impact of demographics and family considerations on Texans personal experiences with water access during the Winter Storm of 2021. Statistical analysis shows that the duration of boil water advisories depended partly on the size of the public water system. Large, predominantly urban systems (serving more than 10,000 individuals) tended to issue shorter advisories (median of 6 days and a maximum of 12 days). Smaller systems (serving less than 10,000 individuals) experienced a wide range of advisory lengths with a median of 8 days and a maximum of 36 days. Principal component analysis shows two main dimensions of variability among public water systems based on weather and demographics. Some of the longest boil water advisories exhibit clustering consistent with smaller, more rural systems (which also tend to serve predominantly white communities). Though these communities' benefit from public water service, the systems that serve them may have fewer resources to address problems that arise in extreme weather events. Small, rural or ex-urban communities with a greater portion of non-white residents have historically been excluded from public water service in the US (a problem known as underbounding). Some of these communities lack access to clean drinking water year-round and are more likely to experience more significant barriers to access in extreme weather events such as the Winter Storm of 2021. More studies are needed to understand and address disparities in clean water access throughout the US.  

How to cite: Tomko, B., Sawyer, A. H., Sánchez-Vila, X., and Nittrouer, C.: Public Drinking Water Access in Texas (United States) Communities During The Winter Storm 2021, EGU General Assembly 2022, Vienna, Austria, 23–27 May 2022, EGU22-10351,, 2022.


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