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Drought could prompt tighter water restrictions

Posted: Sat, 6 Jul 2013 03:09 PM - 3119 Readers

By: Lauren Petrowski

With the extreme drought continuing across Central Texas Austinites could soon see tighter water restrictions.

Currently, City of Austin water customers, along with customers in most surrounding cities, are in Stage 2 drought restrictions. However, Stage 3 restrictions could occur if the drought persists through the summer.

Those customers that get water from the Edwards Aquifer are also being told to cut back.

"What we're seeing here, just very hot and dry and it's been this way for many months and will probably continue this way for some time," said Brian Smith with the Barton Springs Edwards Aquifer Conservation District.

The district supplies water to parts of southern Travis County and northern Hays County. The district is in stage three critical water restrictions meaning users of the aquifer are being told to cut back by 30%.

When creeks are this dry, it means no water is flowing into the aquifer. It would take significant rainfall in order to recharge the aquifer and get out of drought conditions.

The low highland lakes have the Austin Water Utility on alert. The utility has five drought stages, which were changed last year from only four stages.

"We needed to adapt the stages to reflect more of the situation we're in right now and that's possible long-term drought," said Jason Hill of Austin Water Utility.

The Austin Water Utility is in Stage 2 water restrictions, which means customers can water lawns one day a week on a designated day during specific times. Washing vehicles at home is not allowed, and restaurants may not serve water unless requested by the customer.

While Lake Travis is hitting its lowest level in decades, it will have to continue to drop in order to trigger Stage 3 water restrictions.

"We have to reach a combined lake level of 600,000 acre feet between Lake Buchanan and Lake Travis," Hill said. "Right now we're 100,000 plus feet away from that.

However, that could happen later this summer or early fall depending on the weather. So, in the meantime, customers are urged to conserve.

"We continue to encourage our customers to follow the watering schedule, to be mindful of how much water they use at home," Hill said.

For the Austin Water Utility, Stage 3 restrictions would reduce the number of hours that customers are allowed to water.

Round Rock, Pflugerville, Cedar Park, Buda, Kyle and San Marcos are also in Stage 2 restrictions.

Bastrop is not in any drought stage yet, but that is expected to change next week.

*  Story Contributed by: Lauren Petrowski


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