Austin, Texas, Faces Water Shortages & Boil Mandate

Oct. 25, 2018

The city of Austin prohibited all outdoor water use until further notice

In Austin, Texas, the Travis County emergency management officials told residents on Oct. 23 that they need to boil their tap water for the next several days. According to NPR, the officials urged residents to cut water consumption as the city faces a potential shortage.

The city has prohibited all outdoor water use until further notice. Customers may not use water for irrigation or testing of irrigation equipment, to wash vehicles, pavement or other surfaces, nor may they add water to a pool or spa, conduct foundation watering or operate an ornamental fountain or pond.

On Twitter, Austin Water posted an emergency message telling its customers to minimize water use.

School districts in the area also are heavily affected by crisis. According to NPR, the Austin Independent School district is encouraging student to bring water bottles with them to school. All cafeteria managers are following boil instructions and lunch menus have been adjusted to ensure safety, according to an email from the district Oct. 22.

Eric Carter, chief emergency management coordinator, said Austin Water could take 10 to 14 days to stabilize treatment plants and restore production to last week’s pre flood levels.

Greg Meszaros, Austin Water director, said “based on current information we do not anticipate our water issues to last beyond a handful of days,” according to NPR. According to Meszaros, the consumption demands and weather could prolong the mandate to boil all water intended for drinking and cooking.

"We aren't necessarily at a water shortage, we just have a situation where we have to take an extra step to make sure our water is safe for us to drink," Meszaros said to NPR member station KUT.

NPR reported that officials are urging residents to reduce water consumption by 15 to 20%.

“Immediate action is needed to avoid running out of water,” the company said in a statement. The statement explains that water levels are reaching “minimum levels.”

The company has struggled to treat floodwater since events in Central Texas last week. According to NPR, the system’s water treatment capacity diminished due to slit, mud and debris contaminating the water supply.

Austin Water said the treatment plans can produce approximately 105 million gal of water per day. The current use is about 120 million gal per day for the city population.