Austin's boil water order is causing more than a rush on bottled water.
Monday's unprecedented restrictions on water usage are twofold: They are meant to protect the public from possible contaminated water and also to reduce the city's water consumption so the system can catch up.
While city workers operate behind the scenes to get the water system up and running at full speed, Austinites aren't the only ones changing their daily routines to accommodate.
Many restaurants have closed or adjusted their menus, and local grocery stores are also making major adjustments that could affect bakery, seafood, butcher, deli and produce departments.
H-E-B public affairs spokesperson Leslie Sweet says that the company's in-house food safety team has been working with individual stores to sanitize equipment and work around any instance where city water might come in contact with food. For example, the bakeries use steamers to proof the dough, but they can't use those steamers while the boil water notice is in effect. The deli slicers and butchery tools have to be cleaned with sanitized water, and the seafood department must use ice made with sanitized water.
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At stores that do not have burners or the ability to boil their own water to sanitize equipment, such as the store at Oltorf and Congress, customers might see shuttered or reduced deli, bakery, butcher, sushi and seafood departments. But other stores, such as Mueller, won't be affected as much because they have restaurants and places to boil large quantities of water for the various departments that need it.
UPDATE: The deli, meat, seafood bakery departments at the South Congress store are now sanitized and up and running. The butchers are hand-cutting meat to work around the equipment issues, Sweet says.
At Randalls in South Austin, the bakery department is now closed for a second day because of the water advisory.
"This is when it pays off to have our own food safety lab," Sweet says. "We have food scientists available to answer these questions from stores."
Sweet says stores are already preparing for what will need to happen when the boil water notice has been lifted, such as changing the filters in the misters, so that operations can return to normal.
After the boil water notice was announced Monday, Sweet says many stores had to compost between 10 and 15 percent of their produce that had been sprayed with city water. The company has posted signs in the produce department reminding customers to wash their produce with boiled or sanitized water before consuming.
Thanks to adjustments in the company's supply chain, H-E-B brought in 200 trailers of water to Austin on Monday. Many stores were restocked with bottled water overnight, but supplies remain low.
The City of Austin announced Tuesday that the boil water notice could last 10 to 14 days.