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Central Texas experienced historic winter weather the week of Feb. 14, with a stretch of days below freezing. Sleet followed snow followed freezing rain, leading to a breakdown of the electric grid and widespread power outages. Water reservoirs were depleted and frozen pipes burst, leaving some without service for days.

Austin Water Orders Ban On Car Washing, Outdoor Water Use

Central Food Bank volunteers pass out food and water at Del Valle High School on Saturday.
Gabriel C. Pérez
Central Food Bank volunteers pass out food and water at Del Valle High School on Saturday.

People who wash their cars or add water to a pool may be subject to a $250 fine under emergency water restrictions issued by Austin Water on Saturday.

The utility had asked customers to conserve water so it can shore up reservoirs depleted due to the extreme weather. A minimum amount of storage is needed to build water pressure for the entire system and get water back to customers.

Austin Water said the restrictions are also needed to ensure water is available for hospitals, fire departments and power plants.

In a statement announcing the restrictions, the utility said it had learned of "unneighborly water use" in the community.

Under the order, all outdoor water use is prohibited. Customers may not:

  • Use water for irrigation or testing of irrigation equipment
  • Wash vehicles, including at commercial car wash facilities
  • Wash pavement or other surfaces
  • Add water to a pool or spa
  • Conduct foundation watering, or
  • Operate an ornamental fountain or pond, other than aeration necessary to support aquatic life

Violations should be reported to 311.

Travis County Judge Andy Brown also issued an order Saturday that prohibits car washing due to the low water supply.

“It is outrageous that at this moment, anyone would be washing a car,” Austin Mayor Steve Adler said in a statement.

He said it had been prohibited in Austin since the boil-water notice went into effect on Wednesday and that violators face a $250 fine.

The county's order is in effect until Thursday.

Stephanie Federico is a digital news editor at Got a tip? Email her at Follow her on Twitter @steph_federico.
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