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Dealing with the #AustinWaterCrisis: a Rant

I've been getting pretty frustrated with the current situation regarding readily available clean water in my hometown and current town of Austin, Texas. It's not great to have to buy overpriced bottled water or boil everything that comes out of your faucets before you do anything with it. However, that's not actually what I'm the most frustrated by.

This post is primarily going to be me bitching about the amount of effort required to get a straight answer about situations that could, potentially, be critical to my health and safety.

Initially, I was pretty freaked out about all the alerts on my phone going off about the "boil water notice". I popped on a local news channel to see what was up and just kept seeing and hearing the same things over and over again that didn't really give me any actual insight into the situation. At least not in a way that was very relevant to my way of life.

Water Treatment Plant issues related to the recent flooding seems totally legit. What was going on and why the water was "unsafe" seemed pretty simple. What got weird was that there was no mention of what to look out for if you think you may have consumed or come into contact with contaminated water.

It wasn't just "hey, boil this stuff before you drink it." They went into detail about how you should make sure your dishes are rinsed with boiled or bottled water when washing. Mentions of avoiding exposure of broken skin or injuries to potentially contaminated water were made as well. Coffee shops and beverage based businesses are being forced to close down and lose money, or pay to have clean water brought in from sources outside of the Austin are.

On top of all of that, Austin was also placed on a water conservation alert. Meaning that they didn't want you doing literally anything not life-critical with water. Reduce washing anything as much as possible. Basically, don't use water unless you have to and when you do make sure you boil the fuck out of it first. All of that made it really seem like there was/is some immediate and serious danger or health risk. What I was hearing made it sound like some sort of flesh eating virus (like has popped up in the Comal River in the past) or an antibiotic resistant bacteria was rampant in our drinking water.

Turns out, the treatment plant wasn't releasing contaminated water at all from what I can tell. The demand was just exceeding the output. Suddenly, what seemed like a pretty simple explanation seemed totally lacking in important details. A Local Community Impact article literally goes into talking about everything being "precautionary". Apparently, the water contamination levels were slowly rising as the treatment centers were struggling to clean the super-gross flood waters. As far as I can tell, they never actually got to a point where a City is required to put out a "boil water notice". The notice was put out, and tied to a usage reduction alert to PREVENT it from ever getting to that point.

Don't get me wrong, I'm all for preventative measures. What I don't like is feeling like I was scared into making a situation easier for the people in charge. Rather than them just being straight forward about the need to reduce usage. Maybe tell folks with lowered immune systems, babies, and elderly folks to boil water as needed - but don't make everyone feel like we're gonna shit our bowels out if we drink the sink water if that's not the case.




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