AUSTIN (KXAN) — The City of Austin said it would move to Stage 2 of its Drought Contingency Plan Tuesday, as water levels on Lake Travis and Lake Buchanan continue to drop.
A press release from the city last week said the combined storage level in the lakes was projected to drop below 900,000 acre-feet within a few days.
Interim City Manager Jesus Garza ordered the move to Stage 2 effective Tuesday, Aug. 15.
“For many years, Austin has leaned into water conservation in normal weather as well as drought,” said Shay Ralls Roalson, director of Austin Water. “As our current drought continues, we know that the entire Austin community will respond to the need to conserve our most precious resource. We’re all in this together, and there is no substitute for water.”
Here are the changes to watering restrictions under Stage 2:
- Automatic irrigation and hose-end watering are restricted to once per week, based on address.
- Automatic irrigation can only be run before 5 a.m. or after 7 p.m. That’s a three-hour reduction from Stage 1 restrictions, which allowed watering before 8 a.m.
- Wasting water is prohibited.
- Restaurants can only serve water when requested by the customer.
- Charity car washes are prohibited. Car washing at home must use a bucket or hose with an automatic shut-off valve.
- Commercial properties, like bars and restaurants, can only use patio misters between 4 p.m. and midnight.
- Large ornamental fountains can no longer be operated.
- Irrigation for the establishment of new landscaping is no longer exempt from the watering schedule.
Austin Water customers are only allowed to use hose-end sprinklers or automatic irrigation once per week, based on their address. Automatic irrigation is allowed before 5 a.m. or after 7 p.m., while hose-end sprinklers are allowed before 10 a.m. or after 7 p.m.
- Even residential addresses
- Automatic irrigation: Thursday
- Hose-end sprinklers: Sunday
- Odd residential addresses
- Automatic irrigation: Wednesday
- Hose-end sprinklers: Saturday
- Even commercial/multi-family addresses
- Automatic irrigation or hose-end sprinklers: Tuesday
- Odd commercial/multi-family addresses
- Automatic irrigation or hose-end sprinklers: Friday
- Public schools
- Automatic irrigation or hose-end sprinklers: Monday
Austin Water says it will investigate non-compliance reports via 311, as well as water waste patrols. Failure to follow the restrictions could results in fines up to $1,000 per violation.
Travis County WCID 10 will also move to Stage 2 restrictions on the same day as Austin. The water district has the same restrictions, based on address, as listed above.
As of Aug. 11, the water level on Lake Travis is roughly 634.6′ above mean sea level. That’s the lowest level recorded since May 20, 2015.
Lake Buchanan is currently at 996.74′ above mean sea level, the lowest since June 6, 2015.
Lake Buchanan is currently 51.9% full, while Lake Travis is only 40.8% full, according to the Texas Water Development Board.
Local business owner reacts to water restrictions
In the afternoon sun, outdoor fans with small attached hoses spray a cooling mist across the patio at Kinda Tropical in east Austin.
The restaurant hosts several tables inside but has almost twice as many in its outdoor space. Thin black hoses criss-cross over most of the patio, spraying a fine mist overhead.
John Yaklin, co-owner, said the business’s many misters are something he advertises.
“The misters is something that we use to promote the patio. We like to remind everybody on social media that we have them, but I guess we’re gonna have to remind them that they don’t turn on till 4 p.m. now,” Yaklin said.
These Stage 2 water restrictions limit when businesses can turn their patio misters on. The conservation guidelines also require restaurants and bars to only give water to customers if they request it.
Yaklin said making sure customers stay cool is an important part of his business.
“When you’re serving alcohol in this kind of temperature we try to keep everybody as hydrated as possible,” Yaklin said.
Yaklin stressed that the business will follow any and all water conservation guidance that comes from the city, but he hopes restrictions will roll back soon.
“Hopefully this will clear up sooner than later,” Yaklin said.