Fort Worth’s third hottest summer will officially end this week, but warm temperatures are likely to stick around well into the fall.
From Jan. 28 through June 20, about 21,510 residents had their water shut off and then restored after payment was made. Of those, 44 requests to have water service restored occurred over the weekend outside of water department work hours.
The water department’s current policy prevents shutoffs when the National Weather Service issues an excessive heat advisory and/or the air temperature exceeds 105 degrees or the temperature is 110 degrees or hotter.
Fort Worth is considering adjusting its policy to improve safety to ensure no residents go without water over the weekend after they pay a delinquent water bill, the water department said in an informal report presented to City Council during a work session on Aug. 29. Under the new system, the water department would only shut off service Monday through Thursday, to give residents time to pay their bill and have service restored.
“It gives the customer more time to make arrangements and it also gives our staff more time to receive payment and get the water turned back on,” said Chris Harder, water director.
The new policy will go into effect next week. Residents will have a full day to pay their delinquent water bill and get service restored, rather than seven hours, Harder said.
The water department will require four additional positions and vehicles to complete all the work the department does today on a compressed timeline. The department will request new positions temporarily through the fiscal year 2024 budget, then ask the city to consider creating permanent positions in the 2025 budget.
“I want to make sure that from now on, we will not be shutting off water on Friday,” Council member Chris Nettles, who represents parts of southeast Fort Worth said.
Council member Gyna Bivens, who represents east Fort Worth, asked department head Chris Harder how the department ensures the safety of residents during extreme weather. Following winter storm Uri in 2021, the state legislature required water utilities to suspend shutoffs if the previous days high temperature doesn’t exceed 28 degrees and the temperature is predicted to remain at or below that temperature for the next 24 hours.
Resident’s with medical conditions or equipment that requires water can fill out a form with a licensed physician that will expedite maintenance and service restoration. Low-income residents can get help paying utility bills through Community Action Partners and the federally-funded Low-Income Household Water Assistance Program, which could lose federal funding by the end of this year if Congress does not provide ongoing funding.
Here’s what you need to know about water shutoffs
Water bills are due to the city 21 days after the bill is created, it’s considered late on day 22. On the 24th day, a 10 percent late fee is added to the resident’s bill. After day 37, residents with a minimum past due payment amount of $25 are notified by phone. An urgent notice is mailed out on day 39, and service isn’t terminated until day 52.
When water is shut off, a red door tag is left at the home with instructions for having service restored.
All meter shutoffs for non-payment are completed by 2:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday and by noon Friday. When the customer pays and notifies the city of payment with a request to restore service, the water department notifies field personnel to restore service with a same day work order.
Those work orders are accepted until 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday and until 7 p.m. on Fridays. Crews will typically restore service on weekdays until about 10 p.m.
In January, the water department added a weekend route to restore service to homes who request service after 7 p.m. Fridays through 12 p.m. on Saturdays.
Fort Worth Water is not aware of any resident who has gone without water for the weekend since the department began this practice, according to the informal report.
Rachel Behrndt is a government accountability reporter for the Fort Worth Report. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.