Austin leaders consider future projected water use

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Associated Press

Posted on May 20, 2014 at 11:32 AM

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Leaders of a panel reviewing Austin water use amid the lingering Texas drought heard suggestions ranging from using more rainwater to relying on aquifers to recycling wastewater as a drinking source.

Recommendations from the Austin Water Resource Planning Task Force, which held a public meeting Monday night, go to the Austin City Council next month.

Some of the ideas that Austin Water Utility officials offered include lowering the level of Lake Austin and then pulling rainwater from it, the Austin American-Statesman (http://bit.ly/1oNWmXU ) reported.

That option, previously suggested by the Lower Colorado River Authority, raised concerns among recreational users and homeowners along the lake.

Another idea was to put reclaimed water, or treated effluent, into Lady Bird Lake. The city would allow some time for the effluent to mix, then pump some water from Lady Bird Lake directly into a city plant farther upstream, on Lake Austin, where water is treated and turned into drinking water.

Austin has a long-term agreement with the LCRA to get water from lakes Travis and Buchanan well into the future.

The LCRA on Tuesday reported both lakes are low due to prolonged drought. "Repeated, heavy rainstorms would be needed to significantly raise storage levels," the LCRA said.

"We think this is the worst drought at least since the lakes were built in the 1940s," said Daryl Slusher, assistant director for Austin Water Utility. "This summer, it's possible the lakes could reach the lowest point they've been. We feel like we have a responsibility to come forward with options for augmenting the water supply."

Groundwater could also be pumped from aquifers east and northeast of Austin.

One costly option would be aquifer storage — storing reclaimed or treated water underground for use later — which city officials say would cost $130 million, the newspaper reported.

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Information from: Austin American-Statesman, http://www.statesman.com

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