SAWS Sends Drinking Water to Austin After Historic Flooding Prompts Boil Water Notice

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After Austin’s water utility sent out a citywide boil water notice, San Antonio Water System on Monday trucked 5,000 gallons of drinking water to its northern neighbor.

The City of Austin issued emergency water use restrictions following widespread flooding that caused reduced water treatment capacity. The water tanker SAWS dispatched to Austin is typically used around town during events like Chalk It Up, the local utility’s Communications Manager Anne Hayden said.

“In times of crisis we send it to places like Corpus Christi [or] the [Rio Grande] Valley when they had problems with water after flood, and places like Port Aransas after Harvey,” Hayden said. “When Austin gave us a call, we knew we wanted to provide that, so we mobilized our tanker truck and our [150-gallon dispenser] WaterMonster.”

Austin Water Monday morning instructed residents to boil all water intended for drinking, cooking, brushing teeth, and washing dishes. All outdoor water use is also prohibited.

“Historic flood waters flowing into our region’s water supply lakes, the Highland Lakes, contain much higher levels of debris, silt, and mud,” the emergency notice explained. “As a result, Austin water is experiencing reduced water treatment capacity.”

When too much silt gets into water treatment systems, officials can’t guarantee the water is free of bacteria, Hayden said.

“If there’s too much interference with the filters or the way the chlorine can work, you can’t guarantee the water will not have bacteria,” she said.

While Austin Water has not found “bacterial infiltration” when testing water, it is still asking residents to boil their water for at least three minutes before drinking it, local NPR affiliate KUT reported.

The tanker delivered water to the Austin Animal Center and Travis County Jail Monday, according to Hayden. The truck will stay in neighboring city Buda for at least three more days to transport Buda tap water to Austin, she said.

“Generally, San Antonio Water System has a policy of assistance,” Hayden said. “They are our neighbors. We just want to be there for them. It made sense to provide this for them.”