After a day of uncertainty, Austin officials say the city's boil-water notice could be lifted as soon as this weekend.
Travis County officials initially said this morning that they were prepared for the boil-water notice to last 10 to 14 days. But Austin Water Director Greg Meszaros later said that, based on current estimates, the notice wouldn't last more than a "handful of days."
In a press conference this afternoon, Meszaros and Austin Mayor Steve Adler suggested Austin Water could lift the notice as soon as Sunday. The utility has struggled to treat floodwaters from Lake Travis after historic flooding and is asking Austinites to reduce their water usage by 20 percent.
— Austin Water (@AustinWater) October 23, 2018
Eric Carter, Travis County's emergency management coordinator, told the Travis County Commissioners Court this morning that lakes Travis and Austin have seen levels of silt five times higher than Austin's water utility has ever seen.
Carter urged Austin Water customers to boil water before using it.
"We aren't necessarily at a water shortage, we just have a situation where we have to take an extra step to make sure our water is safe for us to drink," he said.
Meszaros urged customers to use less water, as its three water-treatment plants are still rebounding after flooding in the Hill Country along the Llano River made its way downstream into the Colorado River. The water utility can currently treat 105 milllion gallons of water a day, but customers are using 120 million gallons per day.
Meszaros said those three plants are increasing production and that the utility is "caustiously optimistic," but that possible rains in the Austin area could complicate the calculus of ending the utility's first and only citywide boil-water notice.
"We've been providing water for 100 years. This has never happened to us," Meszaros said. "This is blowing our mind, too."
Austin Water says it's OK to use water for showering, doing laundry and washing hands, but advises boiling water for drinking, cooking and making ice. Dishes should be washed in hot, soapy water and rinsed with boiled water. Bottled or boiled water should be used for baby formula and given to pets.
The Austin area and much of Central Texas is under a flash flood watch through Wednesday.
This story has been updated.