Austin Water wants your input on drought plan update, potential water restriction changes

RICH 8 2 SPRINKLER HEAD

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin Water is updating its drought contingency plan and is asking for your input at a virtual meeting Tuesday evening.

Every five years, the State of Texas requires that Austin Water update their plan for how the city deals with drought, including how often water customers can water their lawns or wash their cars. The last plan was approved in 2019. Austin Water is scheduled to submit an updated drought contingency plan to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality for approval May 1, 2024.

“We have changing climate, we have changing inflows into the reservoirs,” Kevin Kluge, water conservation division manager at Austin Water, said. “But also we have changing customers. We have more people coming to the community, more businesses. We need a new plan for a new time.”

Austin has been under stage two water restrictions since August, when the amount of combined water in lakes Travis and Buchanan dropped below 900,000 acre-feet. One acre-foot is enough water to cover a football field in water one foot deep.

Under the current stage two restrictions, residential automatic sprinklers can only run once per week between the designated hours of midnight until 5 a.m., or 7 p.m. until midnight.

Combined water levels in lakes Travis and Buchanan currently sit at 833,000 acre-feet. According to Austin Water, stage three water restrictions will be triggered if water levels drop to 600,000 acre-feet. Stage four restrictions occur under even more severe drought restrictions or in the event of an emergency.

“One of the things we’re looking at in this new drought plan is to add a stage in between there at 750,000 acre-feet, so that we can respond a little more readily,” Kluge said. “We don’t have to go all the way down to 600 [thousand acre-feet] and then say ok, now we need to do something different.”

Other ideas Austin Water is considering in its drought contingency plan update include more rebates to customers who take steps to conserve water, such as installing a pool cover to limit evaporation, or enhancing enforcement measures.

How to attend Tuesday’s meeting

The virtual meeting takes place at 6 p.m. Tuesday evening, where the public will have a chance to ask questions about the current drought plan and speak up about proposed changes.

Click here to register for and attend Austin Water’s virtual meeting. Austin Water’s Speak Up Austin page also has a written questionnaire water customers can complete, and submit their own ideas.

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