Nearly a week after the City of Austin lifted a water boil notice resulting from catastrophic flooding, residents voted to expand water conservation and infrastructure projects.
Voters in the Nov. 6 election approved Proposition D by a nearly 68-point margin, allocating $184 million to improve flood mitigation, preserve undeveloped lands around the watersheds and protect Austin’s water quality. Michael Kelly, managing engineer at the Austin Watershed Protection Department, said while the projects will help keep the water clean, the bond package is not a fix-all solution.
“These projects intend to help prevent another water boil notice in the future, but it would be disingenuous to say this bond will prevent that from ever happening again,” Kelly said. “The more land we have in a well-maintained character, the less likely sediment will clog our drinking supplies.”
Drainage and stormwater projects will use $112 million to repair and replace pipes, strengthen streambanks against erosion, create flood detention ponds and update dams. The other $72 million will be used to purchase and protect undeveloped lands outside of Austin that feed into bodies of water such as Barton Creek. Kelly said this bond package is a continuation of previous expenditures to update infrastructure and prevent pollution-causing development.
The Save Our Springs Alliance, a local water conservation group, has worked with the city to shape similar bond packages since the first one was passed in 1998. Executive director Bill Bunch said although the alliance is content with the newest burst of funding, many more land purchases are needed for optimal conservation.
“The package is very significant, but there is much more to do beyond this,” Bunch said. “The bulk of the watershed is neither protected nor developed. It is still up for grabs, which means its future is still uncertain and will depend largely on permanently protecting substantially more land.”
Chemical engineering freshman Sonya Pfitzenmaier lives in Jester East and said she had difficulty accessing water throughout the boil notice. Pfitzenmaier said she is happy to know the city is taking steps to minimize similar events in the future.
“It’s good the city is doing something and not just ignoring the fact that we didn’t have water for a week,” Pfitzenmaier said. “If (flooding) is going to happen again more frequently, then obviously the city needs to continue to do something about it.”