AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin Mayor Steve Adler said the city’s boil water ordinance should be lifted within a matter of days, not weeks.
The announcement comes as the city reports water quality at intake plants improved Tuesday, and that the city’s three water treatment plants are operating at about 1/3 of their normal capacity.
Adler said how quickly the ordinance is lifted depends in large part on the weather.
“If we get the couple few inches that are anticipated on Wednesday, and then the rain stops, then at some point this weekend we should be moving out, we’d be moving out of the water boil situation,” he said.
The current problem is twofold.
The water is so murky and full of silt, measured Tuesday at 250 NTU (normal is about four NTU), that city engineers worry they won’t be able to clean the water to meet federal standards.
Additionally, that dirty water is slowing down the cleaning process, putting the city’s ability to meet customer’s water demand in question. As a result, the city is asking people to continue conserving water.
“The good news is that you heard us, and it’s working, but we are asking you to keep your conservation efforts,” said Austin City Manager Spencer Cronk. “Don’t water your lawn, wash your car, keep your showers short.”
The Austin Water Department reported customers scaled back their water use by 15 to 20 percent Monday, enough to allow the city to produce more clean water than is being consumed.
Austin residents typically use about 108 million gallons of water each day, according to Water Department Director Greg Meszaros.
“We’ve been providing water for 100 years, this has never happened to us,” Meszaros said.
While a dozen or so city and county leaders provided the update during a press conference Tuesday, Councilmember Ellen Troxclair stood in the back of the press room listening.
When it ended, she walked away wondering why the conservation notice wasn’t announced sooner, given the rain and flooding events that happened earlier upstream from the city’s intake facilities.
“It would have made sense last Thursday or Friday when we saw that this was going to be an issue, that we should conserve water,” Troxclair said. “We maybe would never have been in the boil water situation.”
Troxclair added that the city should have exhausted all means necessary to alert residents about the boil water ordinance, including reverse 911 calls.
“We have emergency communications available, and we just need to make sure that we are using them to notify the public when there are issues like this,” she said.
Austin leaders reiterated that at this point, none of the city water has actually failed their tests.
The boil water ordinance is just a precaution because they worry it still has the potential to fail
As long as the water quality doesn’t get worse, customers won’t need to flush their pipes once the ordinance is lifted.