The City of Houston will enter Stage Two of the city’s Drought Contingency Plan, on Sunday, August 27, 2023, due to a significant drop in annual rainfall and higher-than-normal daily temperatures leading to continued stress on the water system.  

During Stage Two, outdoor water use is only allowed between 7 p.m. and 5 a.m. with the following schedule:  

  • Sundays and Thursdays for single-family residential customers with even-numbered street addresses  
  • Saturdays and Wednesdays for single-family residential customers with odd-numbered street addresses  
  • Tuesdays and Fridays for all other customers  

Any water customer who violates these watering times will be issued a written warning for a first-time violation. Any subsequent violations are subject to a fine of up to $2,000 for each occurrence of the offense (Section 54.001 of the Texas Local Government Code). 

Houston Public Works (HPW) is also seeing an increase in reports of lower water pressure across the city. The intense heat combined with a significant drop in annual rainfall have dried up the soil, causing a shift in the water lines. When the pipes shift, the pipe joints can break, causing water leaks. Combined with the increase in water usage during the summer months, Houston is experiencing massive demand and stress on the water system.  

During Stage Two, the goal is to reduce water consumption citywide by 10 percent. HPW crews are working diligently in conjunction with area contractors to repair water leaks across the city. Please call 311 and report any water leaks you notice, so HPW crews can address them as soon as possible. If a reported leak has worsened, please call 311 again to notify Houston Water that the leak has become more serious.  

Water customers are also reminded to continue everyday efforts to prevent the loss of water:  

  • Check and repair water leaks, including dripping faucets and running toilets  
  • Check sprinkler heads to make sure water is not spraying into the street or directly into a storm drain and/or gutters. Typically, more than 5 minutes of sprinkler use creates runoff into the street. 
  • Run dishwashers and washing machines only when full 
  • Take shorter showers 
  • Additional outdoor water conservation tips 
  • Additional indoor water conservation tips 

Find more details about the drought contingency plan here: City of Houston’s Drought Contingency Plan 


The Houston Permitting Center provided an update on the Construction Code Modernization project and presented the proposed 2021 Houston Construction Code at today’s Transportation, Technology, and Infrastructure committee meeting. Updates to the construction code are necessary to help protect Houstonians from the effects of extreme weather events like hurricanes, floods, and extreme temperatures, as well as disasters like fires. The Construction Code Modernization project began last summer, comparing 11 building codes from 2015 and 2018 to the 2021 base code editions. 

The construction code updates include: 

  • 2021 International Building Code (IBC) 
    • A new type of construction for mass/heavy timber buildings; providing additional options for builders and designers 
    • New requirements in windborne debris regions that will better protect cities like Houston  
  • 2021 International Existing Building Code (IEBC) 
  • 2021 International Fire Code (IFC) 
    • New provisions for clothes dryer exhaust maintenance to ensure traps and ducts are cleaned and maintained properly 
    • New provisions for portable generators address safety issues 
  • 2021 International Residential Code (IRC) 
    • Updated requirements for emergency escape and rescue openings  
    • New provisions will require exterior guards on decks to provide a first line of defense against significant falls 
  • 2021 International Swimming Pool & Spa Code (ISPSC) 
  • 2021 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) 
    • New energy conservation requirements for residential homes 
      • A new home built in Texas under this code will save an average of 8.9% annually, about $179 dollars per year 
    • New energy monitoring requirements for commercial buildings with a conditioned floor area of 25,000 sq. ft or greater 
  • 2021 Uniform Mechanical Code (UMC) 
    • New fire-extinguishing and carbon monoxide detection requirements for exhaust systems 
    • New provisions for residential compressed natural gas (CNG) fueling systems
  • 2021 Uniform Plumbing Code (UPC) 
    • New requirements for leak detection and backflow prevention devices 
    • Updated standards for drain, waste, and vent piping 
  • 2023 National Electrical Code (NEC) 
    • Updates to the kitchen island/peninsular provisions to remove overburdensome receptacle requirements 

Projects that have an application for development submitted before the effective date for the 2021 Construction Code will be grandfathered under the 2015 Construction Code. Only projects submitted after the effective date of the 2021 Construction Code will need to comply with the 2021 editions of the codes.  


The codes were grouped into four categories: commercial, residential, energy, and mechanical/electrical/plumbing. Over the last six months, 32 city staff members and 42 community subject matter experts participated in task forces covering these categories, reviewing all amendments submitted by the public. 166 amendments were received for consideration and 46 amendment proposals were approved. 

Significant amendments include: 

  • Break Tanks – The new amendment will remove the mandatory break tank requirement and will instead require hydraulic calculations be performed to determine any potential needs for a system. This will help ensure that an adequate system is provided only when needed and will reduce any unnecessary systems and potential issues affecting water supply during fire emergency operations. 

  • Water Fountains – The need for water fountains at commercial buildings has shifted significantly over the past decades. This amendment removes outdated fountain exceptions, incorporates 2021 IPC language for fountains, allows for the substitution of 50 percent of drinking fountains with other water dispensing methods. 

  • Water Softeners – The amendment removes mandatory double-check valve assembly requirements for residential water treatment units. This change is aligned with the base code requirements and will reduce expenses for Houston residents. 

  • Solar Ready – The energy-focused task force decided to continue the adoption of the mandatory Solar-Ready appendix for residential buildings in anticipation of increased demands on the Texas power grid.  

  • EV-Ready – Projections suggest that 50 percent of all new vehicles will be electric. These new amendments will provide guidance on proper installation, electric hazard safety requirements, and proper locations for EV charging stations. Both the Commercial and Residential EV-Ready appendices will be optional and are intended to be used as guidelines for future EV installs. 

  • American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) 2022 Standards – Typically, the city would adopt the ASCE 2016 standards that coordinate with the ICC 2021 codes. However, the ASCE 2022 standards are based on engineering data that was gathered more recently, including from recent storms like Hurricane Harvey. It includes updates to wind and tornado loads for more resilient construction and improves roof underlayment in high-wind regions and water infiltration in hurricane-prone regions.

While there aren’t any specific significant building code amendment changes to address affordability outside of the energy conservation codes, the Houston Permitting Center will continue to provide a 50 percent discount on permit fees for homes that are 1,800 square feet or less. In 2022, 1,392 homes received this discount, with an average savings of around $543.  

The Houston Permitting Center is continuing to accept public comment on the Construction Code Modernization project until September 19, 2023. For more information on the project, visit the project website