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Day 5: Much of Austin without water as 18,000 still lack power
(Laura Figi)

On the fifth day of a statewide super crisis, Austin Water customers are experiencing either a water outage or low pressure in addition to a citywide boil water notice, which has been in effect since Wednesday evening.

Although Austin Water announced that production is up, service has returned to three major hospitals and pressure has been restored "in major pipelines that are the backbone of our water distribution system." The local utility forecasts it will be "a multi-day long process to restore water service," at which point the boil water notice may be lifted.

For many residents, this news arrives as their power is being restored. Austin Energy reports that more than 96% of its customers have power as of Friday morning, leaving more than 18,000 without. Meanwhile, rising temperatures and ongoing efforts to distribute food and water offer glimmers of hope.

Water update

A citywide boil water notice remains in effect and tens of thousands of Austin Water customers are experiencing outages, Director Greg Meszaros said Thursday afternoon. The remainder are experiencing low pressure.

Restoring water for these customers will take days as the utility works to repair leaks in the system, refill reservoirs that drained due to leaks and restore pressure.

Early Friday morning, Austin Water announced on Twitter that:

  • Its three water treatment plants are operating in a stable mode and produced 86 million gallons of water in the previous 12 hours (more than half of their normal daily production this time of the year)
  • It was able to restore water service to three major hospitals on Thursday
  • It was also able to restore water pressure in major pipelines that feed all parts of the city
  • Crews are working to fix water main breaks and help customers who need their water service turned off because of busted pipes

"We made progress today but we still have many challenges to overcome," the utility wrote.

Once Austin Water is able to restore pressure, the utility will have to go through a sampling and testing process as required by state law before it can lift the boil water notice. Texas Commission of Environmental Quality Executive Director Toby Baker said there are only 135 labs in the state that can do the necessary sampling, which means such notices could linger, according to the Texas Tribune; approximately 12 million Texans across nearly 600 public water systems were experiencing disruptions as of Wednesday afternoon.

With 18,165 Austin Energy customers still without power to boil water and many area grocery stores wiped clean in recent days, Austinites are in need of safe drinking water and other provisions.

The Texas Department of Emergency Management is due to deliver two 18-wheelers full of water from a FEMA site in Fort Worth Friday morning, Travis County Judge Andy Brown announced during a Facebook live on Thursday evening.

City officials have also ordered one million gallons of water in 16-ounce bottles from six states in the Southeastern U.S. that are due to arrive this weekend. "Trucks are on their way," Brown said.

National Guard members are also helping to get a "flotilla of delivery trucks" full of food from H-E-B storehouses in Temple and San Antonio to Austin, Adler said.

You can find places offering water in town today here.

Power update

Austin Energy reports that 96.45% of its customers have power, as of 8:40 a.m. on Friday, and that its crews were able to restore power to about half of its affected customers overnight. This is a significant improvement from earlier in the week when, at the peak of the energy crisis, more than 40% of the utility's customers were experiencing outages. This still leaves 18,165 customers without power, however.

Officials at the Electric Resource Council of Texas, which maintains around 90% of the state's power grid, announced Thursday morning that they are no longer requiring outages to prevent a total grid collapse and that utility companies can restore service to those customers impacted by such mandates.

Remaining power outages are likely due to circuit damage caused by inclement weather—trees on power lines, blown line fuses, etc.—that will require on-site repairs, which take time, Austin Energy tweeted Thursday morning. "Process can still take several more days to get everyone back online," according to the thread.


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