Ocials said water from Ullrich primarily serves central, south and southwest Austin, but water from one plant can be moved throughout the city. 1 Albert H. Ullrich Water Treatment Plant
Austin Water’s budgeted workforce increased by 62 this scal year, although the utility has yet to ll its newly-added positions.
Area served by Austin Water
Primary area served by Ullrich
Outgoing Austin Water Director Greg Meszaros said stang shortages are an issue at Austin Water. Early ndings from an internal study show pay for certain positions lags behind those at other utilities.
Commissioned: 1968 Capacity: 167 million gallons per day
2 Albert R. Davis Water Treatment Plant
Commissioned: 1954 Capacity: 118 million gallons per day
Number of positions Austin Water has budgeted:
Number of vacancies as of March 17:
Numbers to know
3 Berl L. Handcox Sr. Water Treatment Plant Commissioned: 2014 Capacity: 50 million gallons per day
vacancies were in operations
The TCEQ identies several primary reasons why a utility may have to issue a boil-water notice, including:
Failure to maintain adequate disinfection residuals Elevated nished water turbidity
Low water pressure Water outages Samples of E. coli found in the water
SOURCE: AUSTIN WATER COMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER
This was the factor that
led to a boil-water notice in February.
water supply and management. Coun- cil may decide on next steps at its March 30 audit committee meeting. Mayor Pro Tem Alison Alter spon- sored the council resolution initiat- ing the audit, and she said a full-scale review is needed to dig deeper into the utility and restore trust in its work. “Our community expects and deserves better,” Alter said in a statement. City sta are expecting to wrap up an internal after-action report on the February event by late March. A search for Meszaros’ successor has yet to progress. While pointing to human error as the main reason behind the early February ordeal, Meszaros and city ocials have also outlined other areas of potential improvement to focus on in the near term. Among the top items: strength- ening the 54-year-old Ullrich facility and its sta. “When Ullrich is wobbly, the system
is going to be wobbly,” Meszaros told council. Meszaros said Austin Water’s recent failures are not a result of underinvest- ment by the city. The utility’s funding has jumped 7.85% since scal year 2018-19, with $654.75 million budgeted in FY 2021-22. Separately, the utility is also in the midst of a multiyear, $1.1 billion improvement plan. In addition, city management may decide to tack on additional funding this year. Council will decide to either shift several million dollars to sup- port an infrastructure boost, or pro- vide small billing credits to customers to cover the nancial eects of the boil-water situation. As those processes play out, Aus- tin Water is contending with sta- ing issues that have hit many city departments over the past year-plus. Although it received a 5% bump to its budgeted sta in FY 2021-22, the utility
Since 2011, Austin has issued 14 boil-water notices, either localized or city-wide. Here is how many notices other cities have issued in that time. Austin, Houston and San Antonio all issued a boil- water notice during Winter Storm Uri.
San Antonio: 11
has seen constant attrition at all levels of its workforce. As of March, more than 11%of its 1,298 budgeted positions were vacant. “Our experience is being diluted,” Meszaros said. “We used to turn around where we’d have a lot of operators that have 20 years’ experience, 25 years’ experience. Those days are gone.”
An external audit will cost: Austin will also either:
• Reinvest that money, a total of more than $2 million, back into the utility’s operations. • Give Austin Water residential customers a $10 rebate on their water bill. SOURCES: AUSTIN WATER, TEXAS COMMISSION ON ENVIRONMENTAL QUALITYCOMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER
For more information, visit communityimpact.com .
SOUTHWEST AUSTIN DRIPPING SPRINGS EDITION • MARCH 2022
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