(Austin)— The combined storage level of water in Lakes Travis and Buchanan has dropped below 1.4 million acre-feet. Austin’s Drought Contingency Plan sets a trigger at this storage level at which the City Manager may order the implementation of Stage 1 conservation measures. Consistent with that, and the City’s Water Conservation Code, City Manager Spencer Cronk has ordered implementation of Stage 1, effective August 27. This comes after a 2-year stretch at the lowest stage of the Water Conservation Code.
“The only change between Conservation Stage and Stage 1 is the reduction of available automatic irrigation watering hours,” said Greg Meszaros, Director of Austin Water. “Making this adjustment, watering only in the early morning or late evening hours when temperatures are coolest, will reduce unnecessary water loss through evaporation and help with Austin’s water conservation efforts.”
Austin Water will begin publicizing the new changes immediately online and on social media, through in-person outreach events around the community and via print and radio advertisements.
Stage 1 Watering Restrictions Summary
Stage 1 Watering Restrictions reduce the total number of hours available for watering via automatic irrigation systems from 15 hours to 13 hours (Midnight - 8am and 7pm - midnight).
All other watering restrictions remain unchanged including:
Once-per-week automatic irrigation watering schedule will continue for residential and commercial water customers.
Twice-per-week hose-end irrigation watering schedule will continue for residential customers.
Residents can continue the following irrigation methods without restrictions:
hand-held watering with hose,
watering trees with automatic bubblers,
automatic drip irrigation,
…or with a soaker hose beneath the tree canopy.
Residential car-wash is permitted with bucket and/or automatic shut-off nozzle.
Restaurants are prohibited from providing water unless requested by customers and will limit the use of patio misters to the hours between 4pm and midnight.
While the changes in restrictions for Stage 1 are limited, Austin Water also views the declaration of Stage 1 as an opportunity, and obligation, to inform citizens about the current situation with drought and lake volume. Although some rain has fallen in Central Texas this year, much of that rain simply soaked into the parched soil, never making its way into the streams and rivers that replenish the Highland Lakes.
“With the triple digit temperatures and ongoing dry conditions, we could be heading into a serious situation,” said Daryl Slusher, Assistant Director of Austin Water – Environmental Affairs and Conservation. “We encourage folks to respond like they did in the last drought and do everything possible to conserve water.”
Slusher pointed out that, according to LCRA figures, 2017 was the 8th driest year of cumulative inflows to Lakes Travis and Buchanan since the lakes came into existence in 1942. So far 2018 is even drier than 2017, with every single month of 2018 to-date measuring below the inflows for the same month in 2017. The inflows to the lakes thus far this year are the 3rd lowest for the January through July timeframe.
Slusher added that the return of drought is likely an impact of climate change. “While no single event can be attributed to climate change,” he said, “climate models predict more extremes of drought and flood for our region. That is a pretty good description of what we have experienced over the last decade.”
For more than 100 years, Austin Water has been committed to providing safe, reliable, high quality, sustainable and affordable water services to our customers. Austin Water consistently ranks among the best in the country when it comes to water quality.
For complete details about the drought contingency plan, triggers for additional water restrictions and other frequently asked questions, visit waterwiseaustin.org