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Despite drought, Austin Water still supplying raw water to golf course

Friday, December 16, 2022 by Nina Hernandez

Austin Water continues to supply the River Place Country Club with a combination of reclaimed water and raw water from Lake Austin to irrigate its golf course.

“The amount and need for lake water is the sole discretion of River Place Golf Group, as they use raw water to fill the effluent pond when the pond levels are low during times of little or no rain,” an Austin Water spokesperson told the Austin Monitor.

Austin Water took control of River Place’s water and wastewater services and decommissioned its water treatment facility after the city formally annexed the municipal utility district in 2017. Along with the district’s utility systems, Austin Water inherited the “supply obligations” of the district and continues to honor the contract.

In 2013, Daryl Slusher, then Austin Water’s assistant director for environmental affairs and conservation, noted that all city golf courses were using reclaimed water. The last using potable water had been Hancock Golf Course on East 41st Street, which that year transitioned to reclaimed water. It had previously used potable water at a cost of $4.85 per thousand gallons.

It was part of a city effort at the time to increase use of reclaimed water so that, particularly in times of drought, the city could relieve pressure on the region’s drinking supply.

Austin City Manager Spencer Cronk ordered implementation of Stage 1 drought restrictions June 6. At the time, the combined storage level of water in lakes Travis and Buchanan sat at 1.409 million acre-feet. The restrictions reduced the total number of watering hours available for automatic irrigation systems from 15 to 13 hours.

The city had previously been in the conservation stage for three years. Those restrictions, which remain in effect, allow for once-per-week automatic irrigation for residential and commercial water customers and a twice-per-week hose-end irrigation watering schedule. Commercial car washes can operate normally, but residential car washes are permitted only with a bucket or an automatic shut-off nozzle. Conservation restrictions ask commercial customers to limit the use of patio misters to between 4 p.m. and midnight.

Tree irrigation, hand-held hoses, drip irrigation and athletic fields are exempt.

According to the Lower Colorado River Authority, lakes Travis and Buchanan currently hold about 1.066 million acre-feet of water, or are approximately 53 percent full.

Photo: View of the water intake facility in 2014 prior to city acquisition.

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