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silty water

Boil water rule could end this weekend

Wednesday, October 24, 2018 by Jo Clifton

Although a Travis County emergency management official told commissioners Tuesday morning that the current boil water advisory for Austin Water customers could continue for 10 to 14 days, city officials said Tuesday afternoon that such a scenario was unlikely.

Mayor Steve Adler told a news conference gathering at City Hall that the boil water notice should end sometime this weekend, adding that the Travis County official’s warning was a miscommunication.

Adler and City Manager Spencer Cronk both thanked the Austin community for responding positively to Monday’s request that water users cut back the amount of water they have been using.

“The good news is that you heard us, and it’s working. But we’re asking you to keep up your conservation efforts – don’t water your lawn, don’t wash your car, keep your showers short. While we’re planning for whatever Mother Nature might throw at us, we have no indication at this point that this will be a long-term issue,” Cronk said. “We are talking days, not weeks.”

Austin Water Utility Director Greg Meszaros said water customers had cut back usage by 15 to 20 percent, which is exactly what they needed to do to help the utility get back to normal.

Adler said the miscommunication about the time frame occurred because Travis County emergency managers were talking about a two-week planning period, as opposed to how long it would be necessary to boil the water. There was considerable repetition of that information on social media.

Meszaros and Adler stressed the importance of continued conservation in the face of last week’s unprecedented washout rain on both the Llano and the Pedernales rivers and the flood of silt and debris coming downstream through Lake Travis into the city’s water treatment plants.

“What caused this was the unprecedented flooding on the Llano Basin, and the amount of mud and turbidity is what created the situation,” Adler said, referring to how difficult it was for the treatment plants to deal with so much silt coming into the plants.

Gov. Greg Abbott issued a disaster declaration for Central Texas counties hard hit by the unprecedented flooding, which followed months of severe drought.

Council Member Jimmy Flannigan, who attended the press conference, told the Austin Monitor that it is important to remember that Austin’s water utility was putting out conservation notices late last week. He praised the utility for enacting the boil water rule and strict conservation measures. He noted that no one had gotten sick, but the city needed to take steps to make sure that no one did.

If Austin receives only one to two inches of rain expected from the remnants of Hurricane Willa on Wednesday and there is not additional flooding above Lake Travis, then water utility officials believe that they will be able to tell residents they no longer need to boil the water. However, as the reservoirs continue to refill, it will still be important to conserve.

Photo courtesy of Austin Water.

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