Arctic Blast prompts Brown County to ensure water supply

Special to the Bulletin
Brown County Water Improvement District

On February 14–15 of this year, arctic blast storm “Uri” dropped prolific amounts of snow across Texas, Oklahoma and Brown County. As a result of the winter storm and a concurrent cold wave, power grids were unable to sustain the higher-than-normal energy and heating demand from residential and business customers. At one point during the rolling outages, over 4.2 million people across the south-central states were left without power, with over 3.5 million of them in Texas alone.

On February 15 it was necessary for Oncor to shut down the grid for eleven hours restricting access to clean water for many in Brown County and exposing the water system to freeze ups and damage. Some customers of the Brown County Water Improvement District (BCWID) are gravity fed but many are not and depend on pumps to receive water. The initial solution was to look into four 500Kw backup generators at a cost of 2.5 million dollars which would rarely be used to ensure un-interrupted supply of clean water for Brown County.

Through the joint efforts of the BCWID BOD, the Brown County Commissioners and County Judge Paul Lilly, an alternate solution of contracting with Oncor to install an automatic transfer switch to the hospital grid in the event of power failure at a cost of $175k, much less than the 2.5 million dollars backup generators. Funds from the American Rescue Plan grant, secured by the Brown County Judge’s staff were used to complete this project.

John Allen, General Manager of the Brown County Water Improvement District, said, “I personally would like to thank Judge Lilly, Commissioner Wayne Shaw, along with County Attorney Shane Britton and the other County Commissioners for doing this. By using the American Rescue Plan funds to fund this project, you have saved most of the citizens of Brown County from having to pay with increased water bills.”