Outside Water

Outside operations for water consists of two valve maintenance workers, two fire hydrant maintenance workers, a locator, three distribution maintenance crews, one distribution construction crew, a tap crew, two grounds keeping crews, one meter maintenance technician, and a paving crew. All of the departments work together to keep our water system the best it can be. The distribution crews add new lines to our system and maintain existing pipes. All of the maintenance crews keep all of the system’s valves, hydrants and meters working properly. The locator marks where the water and wastewater lines are, so that you can avoid them when digging. The tap crew makes all water and wastewater taps for the system. The grounds keeping crews maintain all of the system’s facilities grounds, including the Harlingen Proud Water Tower. Our paving crew patches all areas excavated by the WaterWorks.

Valve Maintenance

This job duty has two employees and they are responsible for the maintenance of all valves throughout the water system. Each valve has a box or cover that allows us access to open or close the valve. These valves enable us to isolate parts of the distribution system. These boxes often get filled with dirt or debris and often boxes are damaged or even removed by individuals doing construction around these valve boxes. This is where the valve maintenance technician comes into play. The distribution system is mapped in sections which we call sectionals, which the valve technician follows to keep up with the location and the valve count on each map. They also work the valve to see if the valve is operating properly or if it is broken. Have you ever wondered what all the blue arrows were for that are painted on curbs, poles, trees etc.? This is the way the valve technician marks the valve for greater ease in locating the valves at night. This aids our repair crews in locating the valve quicker in emergency situations. This duty is a never ending cycle and requires constant attention.

Hydrant Maintenance

This job duty has two employees and they are responsible for the maintenance of all fire hydrants throughout the water system. The system has approximately 2000 fire hydrants of various makes, models and years. These employees duties are to paint, repair, oil/ grease, weed control, tag, flow and take pressure and flow readings. Their daily work is put on a PDA and then placed on computer so the maintenance and performance of each hydrant can be tracked. They follow maps which give them the location and hydrant number and establish a route from them. To complete the entire hydrant route takes approximately 4 to 5 months. An important part of the maintenance is the oil/greasing of the hydrant. When you think of grease, you think of conventional oil/grease you use on cars, equipment etc. But in reality we use a food grade oil/grease that is fit for human consumption because conventional/grease is toxic. The oil/grease helps the hydrant to operate smoothly and allow caps to be removed quickly and easily and also prevents the hydrant caps from rusting and freezing to the hydrant. This is a never-ending task, which requires constant attention and is very important. Just imagine a fire at your home and the fire department shows up to fight the fire. The fire hydrant could not be found because it was covered in weeds or it did not operate. Is that the time to worry about fire hydrant maintenance?


The locator’s responsibilities are to locate and mark both water and wastewater lines upon request. The WaterWorks has only one locater so planning and scheduling is of importance. By law all contractors, citizens, companies, utilities etc. are to call the one call number and make them aware of the location and time where the excavation is to take place and what type of work is to be done. This request is made and the locate is performed 48 hours after the request. Unfortunately local water and wastewater utilities are not a part of the one call system so the individual performing the excavation must notify us and the same terms apply. This function is a very important one!! The locate is to show the individual where the water or wastewater line is located also other utilities. This service is offered free of charge to avoid service interruption and avoid any damage to the water or wastewater system. After your locate has been performed at the site requested, you will see various lines in a number of colors. It may seem confusing at first glance, especially in areas where there are a concentration of utilities. But each utility has its own color so they can be identified: blue for water, green for wastewater, yellow for gas, red for power, orange for communication. Remember to always mark your site to make it easier for any locator to find your site. You can mark your site with a stake & flag or by using white paint to mark the area. You may ask why white paint? White is the color used to indicate a proposed excavation site. So please if you have to dig, please call. To request a locate from Harlingen Water Works, fax your request to (956) 430-6190 with the location, diagram or map showing the site, you or your company's name, address and phone number. To request locates for other utilities call Dig Tess at 1-800-344-8377. PLEASE REMEMBER THAT LOCATES MUST BE REQUESTED WITH A 48 HOUR NOTICE SO PLEASE PLAN YOUR PROJECTS.

Distribution Maintenance

This department has three crews consisting of three employees in each crew and is responsible for the repair of all water leaks and breaks through out the water system. This department has a crew on call after normal working hours and on weekends, seven days a week, and three hundred and sixty-five days a year including holidays. This job is a very difficult because it’s a cold and wet job in the winter and these employees have to deal with angry customers after digging up a customer's nice yard, plants, fence etc. Needless to say that they have become pretty good landscapers. This job is very physical and they have to endure the weather conditions and working in traffic and at all hours of the day or night. Have you ever wondered what it takes to shut down a water valve? For example, a 20” valve requires 2 men to work a valve wrench approximately 63 turns to close. These valves after aging in the water system create tuberculation on the valves guides and gate which make the valve very hard to operate, so the valve must be opened and closed back and forth to remove the tuberculation allowing the valve to close properly. So those 63 turns can easily turn into 100 plus turns for that one valve, it often requires 3 or more valves to isolate a part of the system. Can you imagine having to close 3 valves but then having to do it numerous times in a day? These employees often work leaks and breaks without shutting down the water supply to avoid service interruption and to avoid contamination of the water line. This department’s goal is to minimize customer service interruption and to maintain water service through out the water system regardless! IF YOU NEED TO REPORT A WATER LEAK OR BREAK CALL 430-6100 ANY TIME DAY OR NIGHT.

Distribution Construction

This department has five employees which form one crew. This crew is responsible for the installation of all the system's new water lines and replacement of old water lines. This crew enables us to expand the water system to areas that do not have city water or to help and aid in development of areas within the city. This crew has installed thousands of feet of pipe and has installed a number of different sizes ranging from 2” to 36”. This job can be a very dangerous job because of the depth of the excavation, which can range from 5’ to 20’ in depth. Because of this danger, special trenching methods and shielding or shoring devices must be used to protect our employees. This is a very dirty and difficult job, especially in the summer when the heat is unbearable and you can't get a bit of a breeze in the trench. There are numerous steps in water line installation process but the most important step is the final process, which is the bacteria test. This is where the water line is filled with water that has a high chlorine level for 24 hours to kill off all harmful organisms that could cause illness or even death. Then the line is flushed and a sample is taken and analyzed over a 24-hour period to see if any bacteria are present. This process is performed until a negative sample is produced and only then will the water line be put into operation. Have you ever thought of the awesome responsibility that water works employees have dealing with human life?

Tap Crew

This department consists of three men, which make one crew. This crew is responsible for making all water and wastewater taps within the system. This is a job that is very dirty and very dangerous because of the various depths at which they have to perform their duties and often having to work in streets and around traffic. They have to use a combination of trenching methods, shoring and shielding devices to protect themselves and also work around existing utilities, which most often pose to be our most difficult obstacle. This crew is often under the gun due to customer expectations and due to emergency wastewater taps that are done as priority because of the health hazard. These emergency situations often put them behind on their scheduled work so they always seem to be playing catch up but they always manage to keep up with the workload.

Grounds Keeping

This department consists of five men, which form two crews. This department's responsibilities consist of maintaining all of the system's facilities grounds. These employees perform duties ranging from cutting and trimming grass, trimming trees, hedging, sprinkler installation and repair, weed and pest control and also irrigation. They have the difficult task of maintaining such icons such as the city lake and the Harlingen Proud Water Tower. Do you have a difficult time maintaining your yard? Can you imagine having to cut and maintain 80 to 100 acres? This job is a never-ending task! A route has been developed which takes both crews the full week to complete and then the cycle starts all over again. The employees also built and maintain a green house to be able to grow numerous types of plants, which are used throughout the system's facilities. They have been known to install a fence or two and some times a little trenching for electrical or water lines.

Meter Maintenance

This department has one meter technician who is in charge of replacing, testing and installing meters. This department keeps up with the many meters throughout the water system; some 24,000+ meters. Meters come in various shapes, styles and sizes, but they all perform the same function, measuring water consumption. Water meters are like anything else, they have problems. Sometimes they can stop, or get broken. That’s where the meter technician comes into play. The meter reader often picks up these problems and a service order is produced and given to the technician to be taken care of. Have you ever had a high water bill and then think that dumb water meter is not working properly? Out of the many water meters tested by the WaterWorks, it is rare for a water meter to register fast. Water meters are like us, the older they get the slower they get. A meter is replace by age or by reading or if any problems occur with the meter. Meters can be a helpful tool in indicating leaks or breaks on the customer’s side. They can also help indicate a leaky toilet. Did you know that toilets are the number one cause of high water bills? A conventional toilet with a leaky main valve can consume 30 to 40 thousand gallons in a month’s time. A pressure toilet can consume that amount in one day. Each meter is equipped with a leak indicator, this is simply a little red triangle on the meters face that picks up the smallest consumption and can be seen moving. If you would like to test for leaks just turn off all faucets or any appliance that could use water during the test. Then go out to the meter and check the leak indicator. If the indicator is not turning, you’re in good shape. If it happens to be turning, don't panic and think you have a broken water line. I would first check your toilets to see if the problem may the there. The way to test for a leaky toilet is simple. Place some food coloring in the tank, but do not flush the toilet. Let the toilet sit for 15 to 20 minutes then come back and check the bowl. If the bowl has none of the colored water in it, the main valve is good. If it does have some of the colored water, the main valve is in need of replacement. If you suspect a meter problem please just report it to our main office and we will help you with your problem.

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