Wading the waters after the city-wide boil notice

Jennifer Liu and Molly Bolf

The boiling advisory is over, but the threat of losing access to potable water is not. The city-wide boiling notice that was put into effect last Monday reminded Austin residents that clean water is a privilege. When faced with historical flooding levels, Austin Water plants experienced significantly reduced capacity to properly treat the input of river water, and the risk of contamination led the city to mandate emergency water use restrictions. On Sunday night, Austin Water director Greg Meszaros released a statement urging residents “to do all that they can to reduce water use.” The following morning, a city-wide boil water notice was issued, requiring that residents boil water before consumption for safety. Austin residents were also immediately prohibited from all outdoor water use, urged to wait on dishes and laundry, and conserve as much as possible. 

As HEB’s water shelves depleted and the seemingly immortal SAC and Union Starbucks shut down, students began to realize how often we take potable water for granted. Everyday habits like filling up your Camelbak with tap water, brushing your teeth and ordering espresso drinks or soda at your favorite restaurant were corrupted by the boil notice and forced Austin residents to think about how much we rely on clean water, and how much we forget about conservation.

As the boiling advisory continued, the danger of contamination became a topic of everyday conversation, and residents were forced to think about where their water goes. Austin City Council member Gregorio Casar tweeted “the single most important thing we can do to reduce the length of the water boil advisory is to cut down our water usage.” He advised residents to do what they can, and included tips like using grey water from the shower to flush the toilet, and to cook with the intention of minimal dish washing. 

Austin Water Utilities tweeted a chart comparing city water usage this past week, average water usage from 2014-2017, and the city’s treatment plant water production; the chart depicted a significant decrease in water consumption following the water restrictions. Austin residents took these restrictions seriously, and positive results followed.

However, the end of the boiling advisory should not mean that conserving water is any less crucial. In order to avoid another boiling notice, water restriction or shortage, residents must remember not to take potable water for granted and reevaluate their daily water usage. The results from the data Austin Water shared lets residents know that this is attainable. 

Art History sophomore Mia Stanley grew up in Odessa, where water is a commodity not taken for granted. Stanley asserts that city residents use more water than necessary, and advises students to take steps to cut down personal water usage. 

Environmental Science junior Kate Cox challenges students to fight the current and conserve water for future generations. Students need to be more aggressive and even relentless when it comes to advocating for water conservation and use their voices to continue calling for change. 

As always, please reach out to us at [email protected] if you have any thoughts on this issue or anything else. 

Bolf is an English sophomore from Fort Worth. Liu is a Rhetoric & Writing, Philosophy and Plan II junior from Plano.