165,000 people in West Texas could be without water for days amid heat wave after main breaks

Ector County declared a state of disaster as the city of Odessa potentially faces 48 hours of no water.


A water main break in West Texas could leave the 165,000 residents in and around Odessa with little or no water for 48 hours, officials said Tuesday, just as a heat wave grips the city.

There's an "imminent threat" of "severe damage, injury, or loss of life or property" looming in the famed oil boom town because of a "main water line failure," according to a declaration of disaster from the Ector County Office of Emergency Management. 

"The loss of potable water is expected to be forty-eight hours at this time," the declaration said.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott directed state agencies to help coordinate the local response and restore the water supply.

The water main break couldn’t have come at worse time for Odessa as residents face an early summer heat wave, with a high temperature of 100 degrees Tuesday and forecasts for 98 Wednesday and 96 Thursday.

Crews are working to repair the break underneath the intersection of 42nd and San Jacinto streets, according to a city statement.

Despite best efforts of workers, the city said repairs are "taking longer than anticipated."

"Water levels have reached a point that a Boil Water Notice has been issued," the city added. "Citizens should expect a significant loss in water pressure and/or no water at all. A significant portion of the community remains without water at this time."

Those caring for children, senior citizens and people with weakened immune systems must take particular note of the boil water order, the city said.

"To ensure destruction of all harmful bacteria and other microbes, water for drinking, cooking, and ice making should be boiled and cooled prior to use for drinking water or human consumption purposes," according to another city statement. "The water should be brought to a vigorous rolling boil and then boiled for two minutes."

Tammy Henken, a 47-year-old mother of seven in Odessa, chuckled at the city's water boil notice.

"How can we boil water that we don't have?" Henken said Tuesday afternoon.

She hopes to get through the next 48 hours leaning on friends in neighboring Midland, who have not been impacted by the water main break, and visiting her husband's workplace on the outskirts of Odessa, which has its own well.

"And I take this as a chance to help my children learn how to trust God," Henken added.

Water levels have reached a point that a Boil Water Notice has been issued.City of Odessa

Bottled water is being distributed at three locations: McKinney Park, Ector County Coliseum and the intersection of West University Boulevard and Farm to Market Road (FM) 1936 in West Odessa.

Hospitals and nursing facilities are being provided with emergency water supplies, said state Rep. Brooks Landgraf, R-Odessa.

"I know this is a frustrating day in our community," he told constituents in a statement.

Odessa, which sits more than 350 miles west of Dallas on Interstate 20, might be best known from author Buzz Bissinger's seminal non-fiction work "Friday Night Lights," looking at the town's love affair with high school football.

The book led to a movie and critically acclaimed NBC television show of the same name.