Austin, Texas, could run out of water amid floods

Officials in Texas’ capital city thanked residents for cutting water consumption so that treatment plants could catch up with demand, as historic flooding continues to muck up lakes that supply the region’s tap water.

The outlook in Austin on Tuesday afternoon was far improved, as citizens heeded a call to cut consumption by at least 15%. Plants were producing more treated water than was being consumed and reservoirs were refilling, officials said at a briefing.

“The good news is that you heard us and it’s working,” said City Manager Spencer Cronk. “But we are asking you to keep your water conservation efforts.”

City leaders said Monday in a statement that emergency conservation was required. A boil-water advisory remained in effect Tuesday, as the city works to filter “much higher levels of debris, silt, and mud” from the Highland Lakes.

But leaders now say the problem may be resolved in days, rather than weeks, as initially feared.

Outdoor water use has been prohibited, officials said, and violators may be reported to the city’s 311 hotline.

Officials urged residents to forgo watering their lawns and washing their cars. Mayor Steve Adler said the community has pulled together. “That’s one of the reasons why I love living in this city,” he said.

‘We want to do our part’

Businesses, especially restaurants, coffee shops and bars, have been hit hard by the boil-water advisory.

Preparing food and keeping facilities — and employees’ hands — clean is tedious work, said Corona Coffee Company owner Naiman Rigby, who plans to close early to help save water.

“We want to do our part,” he told CNN.

Rigby also has been giving bottled water to postal workers and teachers who come in, he said.

University of Texas-Austin student Benjamin Cohen said campus water fountains have been covered with trash bags. He and his roommates are using bottled water, as well as boiling and refrigerating tap water. They’ve also turned off their ice maker and aren’t doing laundry or running the dishwasher.

“We don’t want to use excess water,” he said, “and also want to make sure the water we use is safe.”

Nearby San Antonio also stepped in to help, sending a 5,000-gallon tanker full of clean water to help Austin residents, officials there said.

More rain forecast

It all comes as the Austin area is set for more rain.

Hurricane Willa, due to make landfall Tuesday in Central Mexico, is expected to bring 2 to 4 inches of rain to the area through Wednesday, according to the National Weather Service.

The rain could aggravate already saturated grounds and swollen rivers but is not expected to produce widespread flooding.