The runoff from the massive flooding in the Central Texas area had increased the level of silt, debris, and mud to such high degree that Austin’s three water plants (Handcox, Davis, and Ullrich) had to slow down their treatment process. Austin was consuming more water than the treatment plants could provide under those conditions. However, because it is important to keep a certain amount of pressure in the system for fire hoses and for contamination protection (soil, microorganisms, and water can flow into the system under lower pressure), Austin Water Utility allowed the distribution of water that didn’t meet its high standards.
Austin Water also issued emergency water restrictions on October 22nd in the afternoon, forbidding all outdoor water use. This was followed later in the day with a request that residents reduce their water consumption by 15 to 20 percent.
Some businesses suffered financially because of the boil water notice and emergency restrictions. Car washes, spas, salons, and businesses in the food service industry, such as restaurants and coffee shops, were among those affected.
On Sunday, October 28th, Austin Water lifted the boil water notice after the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) confirmed that Austin’s water met all safety and water pressure standards.
However, some of the emergency water-use restrictions remain in place as precautions until the treatment plants stabilize, and to ensure that customer demands are met. Although these restrictions will be changing to lessen their impact on affected businesses, they currently include:
- No outdoor irrigation
- No adding water to residential or other non-commercial pools or spas (updated on November 7th)
- No operation of ornamental fountains
- No at-home pressure washing, vehicle or surface washing
In addition, the following city facilities and parks remain closed:
- Bartholomew Pool
- Springwoods Pool
- Red Bud Isle and Red Bud Trail
- Butler/Liz Carpenter fountains
- Walsh Boat Landing
- Boating concessions
- Water fountains throughout park system
All city creeks are now open.
Austin Water stated that water bills will not be prorated for the boil water notice period.
On Monday, October 29th, some water restrictions were lifted. The following are now allowed (from Austin Water):
- Washing of vehicles at a commercial car wash compliant with City Code 6-4-10 (B)
- Operation of irrigation systems for the purpose of testing or repair by a licensed irrigation professional
- Conducting pressure washing using commercial equipment in compliance with City Code 6-4-11 (B)
- Adding water to commercial pools and spas (updated November 7th)
Austin Water states that it’s unnecessary to flush your pipes because water circulated in the system during the boil water notice and continued to circulate in pipes when water was used in homes for laundry, showers, and boiling. As well, Austin Water states it’s unnecessary to flush water from washing machines, showers, outdoor faucets, irrigation systems, or hot water heaters. If you do choose to flush, it’s recommended to follow the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines of flushing for two minutes, which conserves water.
It’s recommended to discard at least one quart of water from your refrigerator water dispenser. Also empty any ice from automatic ice makers, and discard any new ice made during the following 24 hours.
Austin Health has requirements for food enterprises regarding flushing pipes and ice machines. These follow CDC guidelines that you can also use at home (http://www.austintexas.gov/article/food-establishment-flushing-procedure-following-lifting-city-austin-boil-water-notice).
Austin Water recommends that medical and dental offices should contact Austin Public Health for guidance for their specific situations.
Austin Public Health is requiring that food enterprises flush all their water lines to eliminate any possibility of unsafe or contaminated water. This includes lines directly connected to coffee machines, ice machines, and any other food preparation equipment.
Here is a list of communities (wholesale customers) serviced by Austin Water that also had boil water notices lifted:
- City of Rollingwood
- City of Sunset Valley
- Creedmor-Maha WSC
- High Valley WSC
- Marsha WSC
- Mid-Tex Utility
- Morningside Subdivision
- Nighthawk WSC
- Northtown MUD
- North Austin MUD
- Rivercrest Water System
- Travis County WCID #10
- Wells Branch MUD
- Windermere Utility
Not all MUDs or communities serviced by Austin Water are currently allowing the operation of irrigation systems for the purpose of testing or repair by a licensed irrigation professional, nor are they allowing the washing of vehicles, including at commercial car wash facilities. Contact the specific MUD or community for their current emergency restrictions.
The West Travis County PUA (Public Utility Authority) also issued its boil water notice on Monday, October 22nd, and ended it on Saturday, October 27th. The following areas were affected:
- Travis County MUD 11
- Travis County MUD 12
- Travis County MUD 13
- Travis County MUD 18
- Headwaters at Barton Creek
- Lazy 9 MUD 1A
- Lazy 9 MUD 1B
- Crystal Mountain Water Supply
West Travis County PUA customers are still in stage 4 emergency water restrictions.
Areas which weren’t under a boil water notice:
- City of Round Rock
- City of Pflugerville
- City of Cedar Park
- City of Kyle
- Hurst Creek MUD (serves the Village of the Hills in Lakeway area)
- Barton Creek Lakeside in Spicewood
- Brushy Creek MUD
- Water Control and Improvement District 17 (includes Steiner Ranch, Hudson Bend, North Lakeway, and Serene Hills)
- Cypress Ranch Water Control and Improvement District No. 1 (Spicewood communities of West Cypress Hills and Sola Vista)
For further updates on restrictions please check the Austin Water website: http://www.austintexas.gov/boilH2O, http://www.austintexas.gov/department/watering-restrictions