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Top Morning Stories August 18, 2011

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Photo by EriK Reyna for KUT News
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Gas prices in the Austin area have dropped 8 cents in the past month.

Austin Moves to Stage 2 Water Restrictions

The city of Austin will move to Stage 2 water restrictions next month. The Austin American-Statesman reports, starting September 6th homes and businesses will only be allowed to water lawns once a week. Under the new restrictions, restaurant may only serve water when requested and outdoor fountains must be turned off unless to keep fish. Stage 2 also includes a ban on all charity car washes.

Austin City Manager Marc Ott ordered further water restriction because city water supplies are about to drop below what the city has defined as alarming levels.

"The lack of rain and extreme heat this summer has accelerated the need for further restrictions," City Manager Marc Ott wrote in a memorandum to the Austin City Council on Wednesday evening. "It is anticipated the drought conditions will last well into 2012."

Those caught violating the restrictions will first be issued a warning and then a citation starting at $475.

Tax Free Weekend Begins Tomorrow

Texas' annual sales tax holiday begins tomorrow. This weekend some clothing, footwear and school supplies will be tax exempt for back-to-school shoppers.

The three day tax holiday has become increasingly important to Texas retailers. The Houston Chronicle reports big retailers such as Walmart are offering door buster deals starting tonight as soon as the clock hits midnight.

"Retailers are going to be very promotional this back-to-school season," said Cheryl Bridges, director of the Center for Retailing Studies at the Mays Business School at Texas A&M University. They watch the back-to-school season with great interest, she said, because it often foreshadows their Christmas holiday season performance. "Retailers are cautiously optimistic this year even if the economy is not as robust as they'd like," she said.

You can see a list of tax exempt items on the state comptroller's website.

Gas Prices Continue to Trickle Down

Fuel prices in the Austin area continue on a downward trend. Today according to AAA, the average price of a gallon of regular unleaded gas in the Austin area is $3.48. That's down 8 cents in the past month. The national average today is $3.58 per gallon.