As dry soils contract, underground pipes rupture and cities must fix thousands of water leaks, frustrating conservation efforts and highlighting the vulnerability of critical infrastructure to a warming climate.
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The hottest summer on record for many Texas cities has brought millions of dollars in damage to municipal plumbing and the loss of huge volumes of water during a severe drought.
Authorities across the state are struggling to keep up with widespread leakage even as they plead for water conservation and have restricted outdoor water use. The impact on Texas’ water systems highlights both the vulnerability of basic infrastructure to a warming climate and the high costs of adaptation.
“The intense heat and drop in annual rainfall have dried up the soil, causing a shift in water lines,” said Erin Jones, a spokesperson for the city of Houston, which logged its hottest summer on record this year. “When the pipes shift, the pipe joints can break, causing water leaks.”