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The Ullrich water treatment plant in West Austin, which lost power Wednesday, is back online, but the citywide boil water notice remains in effect—and could linger.
Austin Water confirmed that its treatment plants are operating "in a stable mode" in a tweet Thursday morning. But the local utility added that it is "facing significant challenges to restore water distribution throughout the system" and is working to address the needs of critical customers, such as hospitals and power plants.
Austin Water's treatment plants are operating in a stable mode at this time, but we are facing significant challenges to restore water distribution throughout the system. The citywide boil water notice continues, and all customers are asked to boil water for drinking and cooking.
— Austin Water (@AustinWater) February 18, 2021
"The plant is back online," Austin Mayor Steve Adler told KXAN on Thursday morning, "and yes, we just need people to conserve at this point so we can just build up the reserves and the pressure, and the water boil will come off, but we need people to conserve water."
Water consumption surpassed typical usage by more than 250% on Wednesday, which Austin Water attributed to dripping faucets, leaking pipes and line breaks caused by freezing temperatures. This caused water pressure and storage to drop significantly, to below minimum standards, which can introduce contaminants into the water system.
As a result, Austin Water and city officials announced a citywide boil water notice late Wednesday. Residents are also being encouraged to conserve water and to stop dripping their faucets, despite the ongoing risk of burst pipes.
State law requires water testing before a boil water notice can be lifted. Toby Baker, executive director of the Texas Commission of Environmental Quality, said Wednesday that there are only 135 labs in the state that can do the necessary sampling, which means notices in Austin and elsewhere could linger, according to a report by the Texas Tribune; approximately 12 million Texans across 590 public water systems were experiencing disruptions in water service as of late Wednesday afternoon.
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Matthew McConaughey is reportedly weighing a run for Texas governor in 2022.
The Austin resident and Oscar winner has been "quietly making calls to influential people in Texas political circles, including a deep-pocketed moderate Republican and energy CEO" as he decides whether to run, according to Politico.
McConaughey said a gubernatorial run is "a true consideration" while on a March episode of Houston's "The Balanced Voice" podcast.
Although most political strategists doubt McConaughey's commitment and viability as a candidate, some are still intrigued by the possibility.
"I find it improbable, but it's not out of the question," Karl Rove, a top Republican strategist with a long history in Austin, told the political news site. He added that the big question is whether McConaughey would run as a Republican, a Democrat or an independent.
Brendan Steinhauser, an Austin-based GOP strategist, told Politico he's surprised McConaughey isn't being taken more seriously. "Celebrity in this country counts for a lot," he said. "It's not like some C-list actor no one likes. He has an appeal."
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott plans to run for a third term and remains popular among Republican voters, 77% of whom approve of his performance as of April, according to the Texas Politics Project.
Some strategists believe an independent McConaughey run would benefit Abbott. But a recent poll from The Dallas Morning News and the University of Texas at Tyler found that McConaughey would beat Abbott, 45% to 33%, with 22% opting for someone else.
Mimi Swartz, an executive editor at Texas Monthly, mulled a McConaughey run in a recent opinion essay from the New York Times. "Texas may not be ready for a philosopher king as a candidate, much less governor," she wrote. "May the best man win, man."
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Some JuiceLand production facility workers and storefront employees are organizing to demand wage increases, better working conditions (including air conditioning in the warehouse) and pay transparency, among other asks. They are also calling on staff to strike and customers to boycott the Austin-based company until their demands are met.
JuiceLand responded on Saturday. "We are listening," the company wrote on their Instagram story. "JuiceLand crew now makes guaranteed $15 an hour or more companywide."
JuiceLand, which was founded in 2001 by Matt Shook and now has 35 locations in Austin, Houston and Dallas, acknowledged the rising cost of living across Texas and the added stress of the pandemic in an email to employees on Saturday, part of which @juicelandworkersrights shared on social media. "There's no denying that times are tough and financial security means more now than ever," the company wrote.
Organized JuiceLand workers rejected this proposal, according to a recent post on the @juicelandworkersrights Instagram account, and reiterated their demands.
"Cost of living in Austin is rising exponentially and will only continue to get worse with the tech boom," the post read. "$15 is barely a sustainable living."