Update, October 29:
Austin residents no longer need to boil their their tap water to guarantee its safety. Austin Water lifted its boil water notice Sunday, almost a week after issuing the mandate. Working with the Texas Commission for Environmental Equality, the utility tested tap water and declared it safe to drink.
The agency also lifted some of the stricter public conservation measures it called for, although some remain in place, and further voluntary conservation is still encouraged. Residents and businesses will now be allowed to wash vehicles at a commercial car wash compliant with City Code 6-4-10 (B); operate irrigation systems for the purpose of testing or repair by a licensed irrigation professional; and conduct pressure washing using commercial equipment in compliance with City Code 6-4-11 (B).
Restrictions remaining in place include:
- No outdoor irrigation
- No adding water to pools or spas
- No operation of ornamental fountains
- No at-home pressure washing, vehicle or surface washing
In addtion, the following city facilities and parks remain closed:
- Bartholomew Pool
- Springwoods Pool
- Red Bud Isle and Red Bud Trail
- Butler/Liz Carpenter fountains
- Walsh Boat Landing
- Boating concessions on
- Water fountains throughout park system
A waterway ban for Lake Austin and Lady Bird Lake is still in effect. All creeks within the city are now open.
According to Austin Water, the “unprecedented event” in its more than a century of operation was caused by historically high levels of silt and solds in source water after massive flooding in the Central Texas area. The event caused a slowdown in the speed at which treatment plants could filter water.
Update, October 23: City and county officials harve issued conflicting projections on how long Austin will be required to boil its drinking water, KUT’s website reported Tuesday. Travis County officials estimated that the the boil-water notice could remain in place for up to two weeks, while Austin Water director Greg Meszaros tweeted that the utility expects it to last for only a “handful” of days.
Whatever the case, the order remains in place today. In addition to a notice to boil water for drinking (humans and pets alike), cooking, and making ice, Austin Water is urging customers to use less water overall by limiting laundry and the like. Outdoor watering and uses such as car washing have already been banned temporarily. While Austin does not have a water shortage, getting it to a drinkable level has been slowed down by the amount of silt and other debris present due to recent flooding.
Showering, laundry, and washing hands with water straight out of the tap should be fine, according to the utility; dishes should be washed in hot, soapy water and rinsed with boiled water.
This story was original published on October 22 and has been updated.
The notice applies to all customers of Austin Water, including Austin, Rollingwood, and West Lake Hills. Water should be boiled for at least three minutes before used for drinking it, cooking with it, or using it for ice.
The notice is being issued as the utility works to stabilize the water treatment system. The boil water notice will be lifted once Austin Water can stabilize the treatment systems. Austin Water will notify residents when the water is safe for consumption and it is no longer necessary to boil the water.
The notice was issued due to the effects of last week’s historic flooding, which dumped debris, silt, and mud into area lakes, according to a Monday Austin American-Statesman story. Extended filtration is needed to treat water, according to city officials, making it more difficult to produce needed volume at its usual rate.
According to a city statement, there have been no positive tests for bacterial infiltration of the system at this time.
The city also recommends that customers take the following precautions:
- Reduce water use as much as possible to ensure adequate supply is available for basic needs, fire protection, public health, and safety.
- Boil water intended for consumption. To ensure destruction of all harmful bacteria and other microbes, water for drinking, cooking and for making ice should be boiled and cooled prior to consumption. The water should be brought to a vigorous, rolling boil for three minutes. In lieu of boiling water, you may use bottled water.
- Businesses should not use drinking fountains or soda fountains that rely on tap water.