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Safe to drink: Boil water notice lifted in most of Austin, Bastrop, some Hays County areas

Kelsey Bradshaw Luz Moreno-Lozano
Austin American-Statesman

A growing number of Central Texas communities got the green light to start using their local drinking water after last week's historic freeze left many either without water or forced to boil water before consumption.

Austin Water lifted its boil water notice for most of Austin, including Central, North, Northwest, Northeast, East, Southeast and South Austin. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality confirmed the tap water in those areas of the state capital met regulatory standards and was safe for drinking and cooking, city officials said.

Even though the University of Texas campus appeared on Austin Water's map as having safe water, university police said people on campus should keep boiling water until the university administration says otherwise.

Austin Water posted an online map where residents could see if their neighborhood remained under a boil water notice.

BOIL WATER MAP:See which Austin neighborhoods remain under a boil water alert

Boil water status in Austin at 3:30 p.m. Monday.

The partial lifting of the boil water notice came days after a record-breaking freeze that gripped much of the state led to widespread power and water outages.

The boil water notice was issued for the city of Austin on Wednesday after power went out at the Ullrich Water Treatment Plant, Austin Water's largest water treatment facility, and the freeze caused multiple pipe and main breaks.

Austin Water worked with Austin Energy to bring Ullrich back online within hours, city officials said, but the enormous number of leaks from damaged city pipes and private plumbing hurt storage capacity and water pressures dropped, causing persistent water outages.

“We expect to have all of Austin with water service by (the end of Monday) and boil water notice lifted citywide shortly after,” said Greg Meszaros, director of Austin Water.

But the utility said emergency mandatory restrictions remain in place until further notice.

"These restrictions are necessary to ensure that adequate water supply is available to meet customer needs while the system returns to normal operations," officials said in a statement. Under the restrictions, customers may not:

• Use water for irrigation or testing of irrigation equipment.

• Wash vehicles, including at commercial car wash facilities.

• Wash pavement or other surfaces.

• Add water to a pool or spa/

• Conduct foundation watering or operate an ornamental fountain or pond unless it supports aquatic life.

People wait in line at a water distribution site at Nelson Field in Northeast Austin on Monday. Several free water distribution sites are open in Austin after a winter storm disrupted service.

Hays County 

San Marcos, Kyle and Buda have restored water to all residents and lifted boil water notices for the area.

San Marcos city officials on Sunday said the city water system repairs had been completed after a weeklong freeze that left many pipes frozen or broken. 

The pressure within the overall water distribution system also became stable enough for samples to be collected and tested to meet Texas Commission on Environmental Quality standards. Lab results confirmed that the water was safe to drink.

Residents can return to normal electric and water consumption, but conservation is always encouraged, officials said. 

Many residents remain concerned about spikes in utility rates. But San Marcos Electric Utility is owned by the city, and rates are set by city ordinance in coordination with the city budget process. 

“There will be no increase in rates for customers at this time,” city officials said in a statement. “However, customer usage will likely be much higher than normal due to the nearly two weeks of extremely cold weather we have experienced, which may result in higher than normal bills this billing period.” 

Kyle city officials said Monday afternoon that residents could also stop boiling water after it was tested over the weekend. Water customers will not see a rate increase as a result of the winter storm. 

The boil water notice for Buda Water customers East of Onion Creek also has been lifted as of Monday, officials said.

Bastrop 

A boil water notice that was issued for the city of Bastrop last week was lifted Monday, according to the city.

The notice was lifted for three zones within the city, including areas west of the Colorado River, those between the Colorado River and Texas 95 and those east of Texas 95 and southeast of Texas 71 and MLK Drive. 

Georgetown and Pflugerville

Georgetown lifted its boil water notice Monday for 720 affected customers in the Florence area, which means that water service has been restored to all city of Georgetown customers.

Low water pressure caused by the prolonged subfreezing temperatures and from power outages during the record freeze last week prompted the boil water alert.

Although no Georgetown water service areas have to boil water, the system is still recovering, officials said, so restrictions remain in place for all customers until Thursday.

"Customers should limit water use to essential domestic purposes such as drinking and cooking," city officials said in a statement.

In Pflugerville on Monday, customers of the Manville and SouthWest Water systems and the city's system were told to boil their water or use bottled water after the city's water treatment plant lost power Feb. 15.

The power outage caused water distribution pressures to drop below 20 pounds per square inch, which led to the boil water notice. The city said staffers were flushing the system on Monday so that water samples could undergo testing.

What to do when the notice is lifted

When it is no longer necessary to boil the water, Austin Water will notify you that the water is safe for consumption. You should flush household pipes, ice makers, water fountains and other taps before using for drinking or cooking. Flushing simply means letting the water run to ensure that there is fresh water flowing through your pipes.

Follow these guidelines for flushing:

  • Run all cold water faucets in your home for one minute.
  • To flush automatic ice makers, make three batches of ice and discard.
  • Run water softeners through a regeneration cycle.

Statesman staff writer Rebeccah Macias contributed to this report.

Volunteer James McDaniel loads a car with water at a distribution site at Nelson Field in Northeast Austin on Monday.