Areas affected by boil water notice:
- Travis County Water District 10
- Wells Branch MUD
- North Austin MUD #1
- Northtown MUD
- West Travis County PUA
- Sunset Valley
- Mid-Tex Utilities public water system in southwest Austin
AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin Water issued a boil water notice for all of its customers Monday morning, something the utility has never done in its history, according to city officials. Travis County Water District 10, Wells Branch MUD, North Austin MUD #1, Rollingswood, Sunset Valley, West Travis County PUA, Mid-Tex Utilities public water system in southwest Austin and Northtown MUD told KXAN they buy water from Austin Water and their customers will also need to boil water.
The utility blames very high levels of silt from flood waters.
“The high level of debris, silt and mud requires extended filtration that slows the process of getting treated water into the system,” Austin Water said in a statement. “To provide necessary water pressure for fire protection, plants must distribute water at treatment levels not typical of the utility’s high standards for consumption.”
The city is asking all customers to boil water for drinking, cooking or ice until further notice. Most kitchen and other household filters are not enough. The utility says there are no positive tests for bacteria in the system as of early Monday morning. Other activities such as showering and laundry are safe to do, but the city is also asking people to conserve water if they can.
“This is simply a case of mother nature throwing more at the system than the system can currently process,” City Manager Spencer Cronk said during a press conference Monday morning.
Austin Water Director Greg Meszaros said the three plants that supply water from the rivers are running at between a third and a quarter of capacities. Normally they can process more than 300 million gallons a day, but haven’t been able to process much more than 100 million for the last two days, which is about what Austinites use. Storage tanks for emergency water are draining, and Meszaros said they need to be built back up.
The boil water notice will be lifted once Austin Water can stabilize the treatment systems. But due to floodgates remaining open at Mansfield Dam and Tom Miller Dam — and with more rain in the forecast — it could be several days before the water quality improves.
“I don’t know when it will end, we’ll just have to take this day by day and hour by hour to see how our plants perform, see how the water quality performs,” Meszaros said.
Officials say restaurants and food establishments are aware of the water issues, as area hospitals. The city is also working with stores to see what they can do to bring in more water.
Austinites rushed to buy packaged water at stores Monday, and most stores soon sold out.
By Monday evening, some stores began re-stocking their shelves. Many limited the number of bottles or jugs people could buy.
According to an HEB spokesperson, the grocery store chain will be bringing more than 100 trailers of water in overnight, to replenish store shelves for Tuesday morning.
Austin Independent School district says all schools are operating as normal, and that it has enough resources on hand to deal with the boil water notice. It is covering all drinking fountains, cafeteria managers are following boil instructions and menus have been changed. It says it will supply students with water, but encourages them to bring their own as well. Campuses are also accepting bottled water donations.
Five schools in Leander ISD are affected: Grandview Hills, River Place, Rutledge, Four Points and Vandegrift. LISD is also covering fountains and providing water for students, as well as “making arrangements” so it can still serve breakfast and lunch.
Four schools or facilities in Lake Travis ISD are affected: Bee Cave Elementary, Lake Pointe Elementary, Lake Travis Middle School, LTISD Transportation/Distribution/Information Technology Center. It is covering up fountains and prohibiting students from washing their hands. The district will provide bottled water and hand sanitizer to students and staff who are affected.
Manor ISD schools are taking similar precautions. Austin Community College is also taping off fountains and encouraging students and staff to bring their own water.
Pflugerville, Manor, Kyle, Brushy Creek Municipal Utility District and areas that are specifically not listed in the boil water notice are not affected.