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Austin Water to announce pilot aquifer storage site by the end of next year

(Austin Water)

By Kali Bramble

The city’s water utility is inching toward its goal to store 60,000 acre feet in underground potable water reserves by 2040, according to a briefing delivered to the Austin Water Oversight Committee on Wednesday.

The ambitious 20-year project will be the city’s first foray into aquifer storage and recovery, or ASR, a technology that harnesses aquifers to store water in times of excessive rainfall to be retrieved during shortages. With the compounding stressors of population growth and climate change, staff believe such measures will be integral to weathering the future storms confronting Austin’s water supply.

Austin Water began considering aquifer storage and recovery seriously in the aftermath of the eight-year drought from 2008 to 2016 that left Central Texas’ Highland Lakes system at historic lows. But the use of ASR in Texas has a much longer history, dating back to the 1960s in a group of towns on the High Plains within the Colorado Municipal Water District.

Since then, a number of ASR programs have sprung up in cities like Midland, Kerrville, El Paso and San Antonio where fluctuations in climate and rainfall challenge water reserves. Austin City Council hopped on board in 2020, but severe utility failures in the fallout of Winter Storm Uri brought the importance of infrastructure resilience into even sharper focus.

Aquifer storage and recovery systems function like a water savings account, in which wells pump treated water into underground aquifers, rather than drawing it out. In the event of climate disasters like droughts, floods and freezes, underground channels can draw out this extra supply for emergency distribution.

“An ASR system can store large amounts of water with minimal disturbance to the land above the aquifer,” project manager Helen Gerlach said. “A natural aquifer prevents high evaporative losses, like those we experience with reservoirs in warm climates, and storing water in a natural aquifer is more cost effective than other similarly sized storage options.”

Engineers have spent the past year and a half analyzing potential sites for the project, weighing both the physical suitability and proximity to infrastructure of aquifers in Travis, Bastrop and Lee counties. Currently, sections within the Carrizo-Wilcox, Trinity and Edwards aquifers are all on the table.

Staff members intend to gather community feedback and land a site by the end of 2023, aiming to initiate a pilot program by 2024. Then, the project will enter a lengthy design and construction phase with a target for a fully scaled operation by 2035. By 2040, Austin Water hopes to store 60,000 acre-feet of potable water ready to be discharged in the event of climate disasters. (For perspective, the entire city used around 149,000 acre-feet of water in the year 2019.)

The project’s completion will be a big step for Austin’s Water Forward plan, a strategic framework designed to map out the next 100 years for the city’s growing water demands. In the meantime, readers can learn more about aquifer storage and recovery and submit questions to the project team here.


Tito's releases (not so?) ugly sweater line for the holidays, profits to charity

Tito's Handmade Vodka

Show your love for Tito's and for the community this year with a wide selection of not that ugly, uglyish, ugly, uglier, and ugliest holiday sweaters.

There's lots choose from, and plenty of accessories like scarves and socks, plus gear for your dog, too.

All of the items can be purchased online or at the Love, Tito’s Retail Store in Austin, TX. 100% of all net proceeds from online or in-store purchases go to one of the nonprofits we’ve teamed up with.

Click here to see the entire collection in the Tito's store.

Mac and Cheese Fest and Free Art Exhibit
Waterloo Greenway, Good Vibrations Installation

🗓 All weekend

🎨 Creek Show Art Exhibit

Check out this highly anticipated art exhibition with illuminated art along Waller Creek. Tickets are free and the event includes food vendors, dazzling lights, live music, and hands-on activities

All weekend 6 p.m - 10 p.m | 📍Waterloo Park

✨ Mozart's Light Show

This iconic holiday tradition lights up for the first time this holiday season starting this weekend! Reserve your spot for an enchanting light and sound performance, delicious hot cocoa, sweet treats, and some overall fun with your friends or family. The show runs till January 6th.

6 p.m and 9 p.m | 📍Mozart's Coffee Roasters - 3825 Lake Austin Blvd, Austin, TX 78703

🗓 Saturday

🥊 Kickboxing in the Park

This fitness event is free and open to the public. Get your morning started right with a "Fitness in the park" class for kickboxing! The class will be led by certified instructors and is a great way to get a cardio workout in while also honing your self-defense skills.

10 a.m - 11 a.m | 📍 Metz Park

🛍 The Front Market

Support local LBGTQ+ and female artists at this outdoor market with over 150 vendors. Get your holiday shopping out of the way at this event, with vendors for food trucks, handmade goods, raffles, hands on workshops and activities, and more.

11 a.m - 5 p.m | 📍Ani's Day and Night - 7107 E Riverside Drive, Austin, TX 78741

🗓 Sunday

🧀 Mac and Cheese Fest

Did someone say cheese?! If you're like me and always willing to get your hands on a bowl of mac and cheese, then this event is for you. Check out the Mac and Cheese festival happening this weekend to decide which vendor has. the best mac and cheese for yourself, and enjoy the bar with creative cocktails while you're at it. Tickets start at $45.

11 a.m - 3 p.m | 📍Lantana Place - 7415 Southwest Parkway