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Austin Water Use Drops 12 Percent, Round Rock Down 8 Percent

Shoal "Creek" at Lamar and 15th Streets
Photo by Daniel Reese for KUT News
Shoal "Creek" at Lamar and 15th Streets

Almost two weeks after Austin implemented Stage II water restrictions, water usage has dropped across the city. Since the new rules took effect on September 6, Austin has been using about 179 million gallons of water a day. Before Stage II restrictions, our water usage was averaging closer to 203 million gallons a day. That’s a decrease of about 12 percent.

“We are working at changing a culture of water users, more so than this feeling like it's a punitive measure,” Austin Water Utility spokesperson Jason Hill said. First-time violators will receive a warning and an explanation of why it’s important to conserve. If they keep breaking the rules, they could be fined $475.

Anyone who sees someone violating watering restrictions can report them by calling 3-1-1. In the first week of Stage II restrictions, that city phone line received 675 water waste complaints. Last week, the phone service reported 913 calls.

Hill says, overall, Austinites “have been very good at being mindful of their water use.”

Meanwhile, in Round Rock, officials say more people need to cut back. Round Rock has seen an eight percent decrease in demand since implementing its Stage II restrictions, which is a smaller than they hoped for.

“It’s imperative we see broader compliance,” Round Rock utilities director Michael Thane said in a statement.

Texas is experiencing the most intense single-year drought in recorded history, but the worst drought on record was a 10-year stretch through the 1940s and 50s.  Currently, Lakes Travis and Buchanan, our region’s water supply reservoirs, are 39 percent full. The Lower Colorado River Authority says as soon as this spring, lake levels could drop to below where they were in that disastrous drought of the mid-20th Century.

Nathan Bernier is the transportation reporter at KUT. He covers the big projects that are reshaping how we get around Austin, like the I-35 overhaul, the airport's rapid growth and the multibillion dollar transit expansion Project Connect. He also focuses on the daily changes that affect how we walk, bike and drive around the city. Got a tip? Email him at Follow him on Twitter @KUTnathan.