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All San Antonio Water System customers are cleared to drink from their faucets again after state regulators gave the OK to lift a boil notice for the nearly 2 million people in SAWS’ service territory.

After sampling confirmed SAWS water is safe to drink, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality allowed SAWS on Tuesday afternoon to lift the order to boil water the utility first imposed on Feb. 17 in the aftermath of the deep freeze. The decision means all SAWS customers are cleared to stop boiling or filtering their tap water before using it to drink or cook.

“When we get back to normal, unfortunately it will be pandemic-normal, and that is still trying at peoples’ lives,” SAWS President and CEO Robert Puente told Bexar County Commissioners on Tuesday morning. “So I and people at SAWS need and want to do whatever we can to ensure that we help as many individuals as possible.”

SAWS had imposed what officials called a precautionary boil notice because of the water-pressure plummet spurred by the shutoff of power to pump stations, people trickling water to avoid frozen plumbing, and leaks from broken pipes. At a high point, 30% of SAWS customers had no water service in their homes and businesses.

SAWS responded by opening bulk water distribution centers where people could fill their own containers, with the City, Bexar County, and San Antonio Food Bank opening bottled water pick-up sites.

The utility steadily restored pressure by pumping water from lower elevations close to downtown up into northern Bexar County and to the county’s southern border with Atascosa County, the last parts of SAWS’ service area to have the boil notice lifted.

SAWS officials had described the boil water notice as “precautionary,” saying their system remained closed and free of contamination during and after the freeze. Still, residents and businesses should flush their pipes and appliances to be on the safe side, according to SAWS.

On Wednesday, SAWS will announce how to apply for financial help fixing broken pipes. As of Wednesday morning, nearly $450,000 had already been donated to the Community Pipe Repair fund proposed by Mayor Ron Nirenberg. SAWS is accepting donations on the Community Pipe Repair webpage.

This story has been updated to correctly reflect donations to the Community Pipe Repair fund.

Brendan Gibbons

Brendan Gibbons

Brendan Gibbons is the San Antonio Report's environment and energy reporter.