Travis County judge prohibits car washes until Thursday after residents question use during water crisis

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — Travis County Judge Andy Brown issued an order Saturday evening, prohibiting car washing services until Feb. 25 due to the water shortage.

This was after KXAN checked in with leaders after receiving reports from several residents noting local car washes operating, while thousands of Texans in the Austin area continue to wait for enough clean water to drink or bathe.

In addition to being open, residents reported seeing long lines on Saturday afternoon at more than one business, including Barton Springs Car Wash located on 500 S. Lamar Boulevard.

Austin social media users didn’t miss it either.

Resident Mary Heather Dunn tweeted a photo of the Barton Springs business, saying, “How is this car wash allowed to wash cars when my 75 year-old mom hasn’t had water for four days?!”

On Twitter, Austinite Jody Haller tweeted, “I called Barton Springs Car Wash and they are using high pressure hoses for the majority of cars. So incredibly tone deaf.”

Steve Stewart, manager of the Barton Springs Car Wash, told KXAN News they are offering people the ability to come in and grab water, adding that they are trying to limit it to two to five gallons per family.

The car wash also has this statement posted to their website:

We are privileged to be back in business, it wasn’t easy but as a team we can do anything. To those of you who are currently without water our hearts reach out to you. We are conserving water as much as we can to still be operational by using recycled water in our troughs and automatic shut off nozzles on our hoses. The city is not on a water conservation notice only a boil water one. If you mention to the cashier that you are currently without water we will gladly give you a discount on your car wash and fill up any containers you bring with you. Despairing as it may be to go without water, all that we can control is what is in front of us and we can do a mind blowing car wash while conserving water as well.

Barton Springs Car Wash

KXAN News reached out to city and county officials asking if there was any guidance sent to businesses regarding water conservation.

“Under the Boil Water Notice Austin is under, mandatory conservation requirements are in force,” said a statement in part from an Austin Water spokeswoman. “Residents and businesses should implement all appropriate restrictions to save water.”

The emailed response also stated that customers may not:

  • 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

The spokeswoman also said violations of these restrictions should be reported to Austin 3-1-1.

The City of Austin’s Water Conservation team says there is a $250 fine for the first offense.

KXAN attempted to get in touch with H2O Hand Car Wash & Detail. The owner of Washaroo Hand Car Wash off South 1st Street sent KXAN this statement.

We were unaware of the order put out by Austin Water. It’s been a rough couple weeks for my employees with this weather as we are a business that closes with rain and snow. We are trying to do everything we can to support them in these tough times. Starting tomorrow, we will be giving away free cleanings on the inside of vehicles to anyone that pulls in and we are asking for donations/tips. All funds will go directly to our employees pockets. We will also give away free water to anyone that wants to fill up jugs.

Washaroo Hand Car Wash

“We’re working across the county to ensure water is restored to all of our residents,” said Travis County Judge Andy Brown in a release. “That is why we’re asking businesses to put their car washing services on hold until we can get this critical water supply to our entire community.” 

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