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Austin’s mandatory water restrictions save hundreds of millions of gallons

Wednesday, May 20, 2009 by Austin Monitor

As Austin enters its second summer of mandatory water restrictions, the lawns might not get watered as much as some would like, but the city is saving around three hundred thousand gallons every day during the summer.

Austin Water Utility Assistant Director Daryl Slusher, along with Sonja Stefaniw, division manager for water conservation, presented an update to the Resource Management Commission on Tuesday night.

Austin’s annual water use is 1.17 billion gallons and growing, Slusher said. The biggest water savings for the city have come from the mandatory watering ordinance, followed by the city’s reclaimed water project.

Commercial and multi-family properties have mandatory watering restrictions year-round. Residential properties have mandatory watering restrictions between May 1 and Sept. 30. According to AWU figures, 121,500 gallons per day were saved between October and March, and 312,294 gallons per day between March and October, which Slusher said were good numbers for water conservation.

Last summer, however, it rained in Austin just about every 10 days to two weeks, Slusher estimated. The real test will be a summer where every day is 95 degrees and it doesn’t rain in either July or August. That would be the tough test, he said.

Slusher provided some additional figures. The city conducted 762 water waste investigations between October 2008 and April 2009. Numbers are up considerably, now that phone calls have been shifted to the city’s 311 line. The first course of action for water wasters is a warning; only after that are citations issued.

When the reclaimed water network is built out, it will run through 130 miles of “purple” pipe, Slusher said. The reclaimed water tower on 51st Street – still under construction – is only the first of six towers. This first tower will provide water to the University of Texas campus, as well as the Hancock Golf Course.

Eventually, AWU has targeted Guerrero Park and Austin-Bergstrom International Airport for reclaimed water service. Slusher said the city had flagged a number of reclaimed water projects in its stimulus funding request.

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