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Thursday, June 1, 2023


UPDATE: Some food options available during brown water crisis


Students hoping to eat lunch face long lines at food trucks, some of the only places serving food on campus Wednesday. Brown water forced most campus vendors to shut down. | Nguyen Le/The Cougar

UPDATE 5:11 p.m.: UH Department of Public Safety at 4:51 p.m. Wednesday issued an update on the water status in an alert to students.

“The lines were flushed overnight, the water was clear this morning, and we are awaiting the results of tests on water samples delivered to both the City of Houston and an independent lab,” the alert said. “Out of an abundance of caution, until the City of Houston ensures that the water it supplies to the UH Main Campus is safe to consume, we continue to recommend that our campus community avoid drinking tap water on campus.  We anticipate this recommendation will stand overnight and will provide further updates as information becomes available.”

Food service locations will remain closed or have a limited menu. Food trucks, bottled water deliveries and 125-gallon water tanks will remain in residence halls. The alert did not say when the issue is expected to be resolved.

1:10 p.m.: Food trucks at the Student Center Circle Drive, Cougar Village I, beside Cougar Woods dining hall and at the Science Building will be available for both lunch and dinner, according to an email from Rosie Ashley, the manager for Auxiliary Services, which includes Dining Services.

Einstein Bros. Bagels inside Philip Guthrie Hoffman Hall is open and serving a limited menu of food items and bottled drinks.

12:45 p.m.: Across campus, restaurants and food vendors are refusing to serve food or drink made with brown water that’s been coming out of campus faucets since early Monday.

The University and City of Houston have not released any information regarding the water’s safety, but the University has cautioned residents not to drink the brown water. Repeated calls and emails to City of Houston public works officials have not been returned.

Food trucks will be available for on-campus lunch. Burger Joint and the Rice Box are parked in the Student Center Circle Drive. Coreanos, Happy Endings, Kurbside Eatz, Tu-Go Kitchen and the Waffle Bus are also on campus near the Classroom and Business Building and the Science Building.

In the Student Center, only Starbucks is open with a limited menu — only pre-packaged foods, said Student Centers Director Eve Esch in an email to SC staff. Convenience stores throughout campus are open.

“I have not received any information on the timeline,” Esch said.

Cougar Woods and Fresh Foods Company dining halls served limited menus, with no fountain drinks, for breakfast. According to managers, lunch options will be more comprehensive, but milk is the only drink available.

Although McAlister’s Deli by the Welcome Center will be closed for the day, it has set up a tent to hand out chilled water bottles to students who need them. According to KHOU’s weather forecast, Wednesday’s temperatures could reach as high as 95 degrees.


Kinesiology senior Jessica Mullen had been passing water bottles since noon. Mullen said in a span of 30 minutes, she had given 50 or more water bottles. | Nguyen Le/The Cougar

“Everybody has been good to us,” said Raul Verde, the deli’s assistant manager. “We just want to thank the customers somehow.”

Verde also said he spotted city workers on campus grounds and hoped that the water problem will be resolved at 4 or 5 p.m. Wednesday.

For students still searching for their morning coffee fix, The Nook on Calhoun Road is serving it up. Manager Austin Beck said the coffee they are serving was brewed off-site using clean water and delivered to the coffee shop Wednesday morning.

“We don’t have water. It’s still brown,” Beck said. “Our distributor Katz brewed five gallon urns for us, and we are now serving coffee from them.”

Finance freshman and Cougar Village II resident Hassan Elmasri refused to brush his teeth or shower Wednesday morning.

“I thought that the University handled it badly,” Elmasri said. “It took them over 12 hours to let us know by an email that the water was contaminated. Before that, you knew by Twitter. The University should have provided us with bottled water.”

Commuter Monica Mendoza, a political science freshman, said she thinks the City of Houston is to blame, not the University. Her family’s business sometimes falls victim to similar water problems.

“It contaminates everyone, and sometimes they have to shut it down for a couple of hours,” Mendoza said. “It’s really the City of Houston that should try to work faster and better. It tends to happen when they’re doing construction, and as you know, Houston’s under construction all the time.”

McRae Peavy and Nguyen Le contributed reporting.

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