Austin to install new system to mitigate future flooding impacts on drinking water

Photo of water coming out of a faucet
Austin Water is preparing to launch a new water treatment feature to control turbidity at one of its treatment plants. (Courtesy Pexels)

Austin Water is preparing to launch a new water treatment feature to control turbidity at one of its treatment plants. (Courtesy Pexels)

Austin Water is preparing a new system to help maintain drinking water quality during potential flooding events.

The new polymer chemical feed system is nearly complete at Ullrich Water Treatment Plant, and it will help remove silt from the water supply during extreme flooding events—such as in October 2018, when the Colorado River system flooded and high levels of silt washed into the Highland Lakes, Austin's source for drinking water. Silt can raise the turbidity of water, making it cloudy and dark brown in appearance.

“We expect to see extreme flooding events in our watershed more frequently due to the effects of climate change,” Austin Water Director Greg Meszaros said in a statement. “Austin Water is committed to making improvements to our water treatment systems to be prepared to respond to these changing conditions.”

According to Austin Water, floods have typically only caused turbidity to spike for one to two days, but the 2018 flood events caused a weeklong boil-water advisory as the utility attempted to lower turbidity in the city's water supply. During the crisis, the water's turbidity levels were around 80 times higher than normal.

An October 2019 report from the city of Austin, Travis County and Hagerty Consulting Inc. assessing the previous year's flooding event called for polymer-based treatment systems to be installed at all three of the city's water treatment facilities. Engineering and design of the first system has been underway at Ullrich for the past two years, and construction of similar systems at the Davis and Handcox plants will occur over the next two years. According to Austin Water, materials are available at the Davis and Handcox plants to provide temporary polymer feed services in the interim should the need arise.
By Olivia Aldridge

Reporter, Central Austin

Olivia joined Community Impact Newspaper as a reporter in March 2019. She covers public health, business, development and Travis County government. A graduate of Presbyterian College in South Carolina, Olivia worked as a reporter and producer for South Carolina Public Radio before moving to Texas. Her work has appeared on NPR and in the New York Times.


Austin ISD Community Engagement Coordinator Gabriella Beker responds to community members' ideas for closed schools uses at a Dec. 8 meeting. (Courtesy Austin ISD)
Austin ISD asks residents for ideas to repurpose closed schools

So far, community members have suggested free housing for Austin ISD teachers or families, but the district will not decide until May.

Special Olympics athlete Benji Garcia speaks to the crowd with his Special Olympics Unified partner Mady Zamora during the Winter Games 2022 press conference. (Grace Dickens/Community Impact Newspaper)
Hill Country prepares for Special Olympics Texas in February

Bee Cave and Lakeway are sponsoring the upcoming Special Olympics Texas Winter Games 2022, which will likely bring thousands to the area, according to the organization.

Austin City Council meets for its final regular meeting of 2021 on Dec. 9. (Ben Thompson/Community Impact Newspaper)
Austin City Hall notebook: Council circles back to housing policy in last meeting of 2021

Several items on council's Dec. 9 agenda follow up on last week's housing policy discussions.

The location offers 15,000 square feet of outdoor dining space as well as a market and indoor seating. (Courtesy Easy Tiger)
Easy Tiger reveals final section of South Lamar location

The additions include an on-site bakery and market.

Tewbeleaux's Cajun Grill opened in Northwest Austin on Nov. 2. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
CI TEXAS ROUNDUP: Tewbeleaux's Cajun Grill opens first Central Texas location in Northwest Austin; House of Pies opens in Cypress and more top news

Take a look at the top five trending stories across Community Impact Newspaper’s coverage areas in Texas as of Dec. 8.

A donation from the Dell Foundation will help Mobile Loaves & Fishes expand its Community First! Village for residents who were homeless. (Courtesy Austin Roofing and Construction)
Dell Foundation commits $38M to Austin nonprofits for housing solutions

The donation, coupled with funding from Travis County, will help Mobile Loaves & Fishes get over halfway to its $150 million goal to expand its village for formerly homeless residents.

Police Chief Joseph Chacon briefed Austin City Council on the police department's work with sexual assault cases and victims Dec. 7. (Ben Thompson/Community Impact Newspaper)
Austin police chief provides update on handling of sexual assault cases, support for victims

Police Chief Joseph Chacon said his department has increased officer training and collaboration with victim services experts this year.

Members of the Austin ISD Equity Advisory Committee met Dec. 7 and talked about their desire to hear more from students directly. (Maggie Quinlan/Community Impact Newspaper)
Austin ISD equity group lays out priorities, seeks new members

Smaller groups within the district's equity committee will create recommendations for the district.

The ATX Egypt Fashion Pop-Up is open downtown from Dec. 5-20. (Ben Thompson/Community Impact Newspaper)
Pop-up Austin-Egypt fashion exchange program store opens downtown

A similar pop-up will open in Egypt in 2022.

The Gringo's location in Katy is pictured. A new Conroe location is planned for late 2022. (Courtesy NewQuest Properties)
CI TEXAS ROUNDUP: Gringo's restaurant confirmed for Conroe Waterfront Center; Austin’s longest-standing H-E-B to be rebuilt and more top news

Take a look at the top five trending stories across Community Impact Newspaper’s coverage areas in Texas as of Dec. 7.

A child gets a COVID-19 shot in November, shortly after the Food and Drug Administration authorized use of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5 through 11. (Courtesy Dell Children’s Medical Center)
Travis County, Austin Public Health report uptick in COVID-19 vaccine demand

Officials said that booster and pediatric shots are driving the surge.