Austin Water Issues Boil Notice

When will we get good water back? Good question.

Photo by John Anderson

Updated Tuesday, Oct. 23, 5:21pm: In a Tuesday afternoon press conference, City Hall officials painted a more optimistic picture, saying the boil water order could be lifted this weekend. Read story.

Updated Tuesday, Oct. 23, 1:15pm:

In what appear to be slightly conflicting reports, Austin Water informed residents that they expect the boil notice to last only “a handful of days” – an estimate in contrast with predictions put forth by Travis County Emergency Management this morning (see below).

“Much of that estimate, however, depends on variables such as weather and consumption demands,” said AW Director Greg Meszaros. “We will continue to make long-term plans in the event this situation isn’t quickly resolved. We will continue to monitor the situation and ask that the public continue to be diligent in reducing their water usage.”

Updated Tuesday, Oct. 23, 10:56am:

Travis County Chief Emergency Management Coordinator Eric Carter put a number on how long the boil water notice could last for: 10 to 14 days.

Carter addressed the Travis County Commissioners Court this morning: “Our initial estimate is that this situation could go on for 10 to 14 days as the water system tries to settle.”

There are an estimated 880,000 Austin Water customers affected by the boil water notice.

“[Austin Water has] prioritized the ability to keep firefighting pressure up. Because of that, they’ve lost water quality. That’s why we’re dealing with the boil water notice that we’re experiencing now,” Carter said.

“You can still take a shower, you can still wash your hands, although you should use sanitizer. If you have to cook, boil the water. That’s the message. We aren’t necessarily at a water shortage. We just have a situation where we have to take an extra step to make sure our water is safe to drink.”

Original post, Monday, Oct. 22:

The Austin Water empire

Careful with your drinking water. Recent flooding has forced the city into saying that it may not be totally safe.

As stated in a notice put out this morning by the Austin-Travis County Emergency Operations Center, silt levels in the water coming in from the Highland Lakes have slowed Austin Water's treatment facilities, and made it such that clean water can't get produced fast enough for city consumption. But because Austin Water needs to produce a certain amount of pressure for effective fire protection, the utility needs to keep high levels of production outside of the plant. So they've pulled the goalie, and allowed water to be distributed "at treatment levels not typical of the utility's high standards for consumption."

Residents are advised to reduce water use; boil water that's intended for consumption (whoops!); and not use drinking or soda fountains that rely on tap water. Then keep an eye on Austin Water for the green light to return to normal. Check for updates. Naturally this has brought a citywide run on plastic bottled water at Targets and grocery stores. We'd urge everybody to chill out and just boil a pot of water for a couple minutes. Then stick that in the refrigerator and go vote in the election. When you get home, that water will be a good temperature and safe, just like the stuff that usually comes from your faucet.

Updated Monday, Oct. 22, 6:38pm:

The City of Austin has issued another statement requesting that residents be proactive and dramatically reduce their water consumption during this time of emergency water restrictions:

“Austin water treatment plants can currently produce approximately 105 million gallons of water per day. Current customer use is about 120 million gallons per day. All residents are asked to reduce your personal consumption by 15-20 percent."

For a partial list of Austin restaurants cutting back or ceasing service temporarily, go here.

Updated Monday, Oct. 22, 1:51pm:

Austin Water Director Greg Meszaros has issued emergency water restrictions forbidding all outdoor water use. On the list of things Austin Water customers cannot do until further notice:

•   Use water for irrigation or testing of irrigation equipment
•   Wash vehicles, including at commercial car wash facilities
•   Wash pavement or other surfaces
•   Add water to a pool or spa
•   Conduct foundation watering
•   Operate an ornamental fountain or pond, other than aeration necessary to support aquatic life 

These restrictions follow the citywide boil water notice. See the city’s FAQ for answers to any questions you might have on how and why to boil water.

Updated Monday, Oct. 22, 1:10pm:

Inmates at both Del Valle’s Travis County Correctional Complex and the Downtown Travis County Jail have been told to not drink water from faucets. Instead, those in Del Valle are currently being served bottled water, while inmates at the jail are receiving previously boiled water via water coolers. According to the Travis County Sheriff's Office, 500 cases of water are expected to arrive Monday, with an additional 4,375 cases “on order.” TCSO is also working with the Office of Emergency Management to get a water tanker with the capacity of 3,000 to 5,000 gallons of potable water.

The Austin Humane Society has issued an urgent call for donations of bottled water. Due to the current state of the city’s water supply, animals at AHS are being given water that is bottled, brought in from outside the city, or has been previously boiled. With a need for at least 50 gallons of water per day to “keep all animals hydrated and healthy,” AHS is asking for bottled water donations – gallons or larger are preferred. Additionally, folks are welcome to donate large, clean containers filled with water that’s either been boiled or from outside city limits. All donations can be dropped off at the Austin Humane Society shelter (124 W. Anderson Ln.), “anytime over the next few days.” Monetary donations are also welcome and can be made online.

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