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City forced to enact emergency water restrictions because of mechanical problems at Lake Stillhouse Hollow
Immediate goal is to cut water consumption by 50 percent

Because the Brazos River Authority (BRA) shut down pumping on Oct. 5 from Lake Stillhouse Hollow to Lake Georgetown due to a mechanical failure, the City of Round Rock has been forced to enact emergency water restrictions, effective immediately.

The BRA, which manages those two lakes - which are Round Rock's primary sources of water - declared a Stage III Drought Emergency earlier today. The BRA anticipates repairs will be made to its delivery system within two weeks. Watch the BRA press conference video ยป

The most immediate impact is that all outdoor watering is now prohibited.

"This is an extremely urgent situation," Mayor Alan McGraw said. "If we do not severely curb our water use, we could face a very real public health emergency, particularly if repairs take longer than expected. It is imperative our utility customers follow the emergency restrictions.

"A brown lawn is nothing compared to the consequences of running out of water. People will still expect water out of their faucet, so we must enact protections now."

The City's goal is to reduce water use by 50 percent.

The City of Round Rock gets water supplies from two sources: from the BRA through the Lake Georgetown-Lake Stillhouse Hollow system; and the City's own wells in the Edwards Aquifer.

Emergency watering restrictions for City of Round Rock water customers (which include Chandler Creek, Fern Bluff, Paloma Lake, Teravista, Vista Oaks and Walsh Ranch municipal utility districts, and Blessing Mobile Home Park), include the following:

Emergency water restrictions

  • Irrigation is prohibited, including foundation watering, using permanently installed irrigation systems, hose end irrigation, or drip irrigation. Hand watering with a hose is also prohibited.
  • Irrigation of professional athletic fields is prohibited.
  • Irrigation of youth and amateur athletic fields is prohibited.
  • The filling, refilling, or adding of potable water to public and private swimming or wading pools is prohibited.
  • No new landscapes of any type may be established.
  • Commercial car washes are allowed to be open from noon to 5 p.m. (as of Oct. 15)

The restrictions do not apply to any customer using treated wastewater effluent or raw water for the uses described above. All elements of Stage II remain in effect except for those noted above. The restrictions above include measures beyond regular Stage III restrictions, as ordered by Utilities Director Michael Thane (PDF).

Violations are a Class C misdemeanor punishable by a fine not to exceed $2,000.

"Because of the serious consequences of this situation, I have directed City staff to strictly enforce the emergency water restrictions," City Manager Steve Norwood said. "Because immediate compliance is critical, violators will be cited and prosecuted."

To notify the City of a violation, call the Police Department non-emergency number at 218-5515, or our water conservation office at 671-2872.

The City has planned diligently for future water supplies, including participating in the regional pipeline from Stillhouse Hollow to Lake Georgetown that began operations in 2004. The City also participated in the planning and recent installation of two new, high-volume pumps at Stillhouse Hollow to increase flows into Lake Georgetown. Also, Round Rock is currently partnering with the cities of Cedar Park and Leander to build a system to draw water from Lake Travis.

"We've taken the necessary steps in Round Rock to deliver adequate water supplies to our growing population, but all that hard work cannot overcome this kind of mechanical failure," Mayor McGraw said. "We will be in daily contact with BRA officials while this problem is being resolved to ensure that all necessary steps are being taken to get the system back online as quickly and responsibly as possible."

The BRA's other customers who draw water from Lake Georgetown - the City of Georgetown, Brushy Creek Municipal Utility District and Chisholm Trail Special Utility District - are similarly affected.

Below is the news release issued by the BRA:


Waco, TX - October 7, 2011 - The Brazos River Authority today declared a Stage 3 Drought Emergency for Lake Georgetown.  The move comes as a result of problems encountered during operation of two new pumps recently installed at Stillhouse Hollow Lake.  The pumps are used to move water from Stillhouse Hollow Lake to Lake Georgetown.  The Cities of Round Rock, Georgetown, the Brushy Creek Municipal Utility District, and the Chisholm Trail Special Utility District have been directed to immediately initiate the highest emergency level of their drought contingency plans.

The pipeline was shut down on Oct. 5 when a problem arose at the intake structure at Lake Stillhouse Hollow. "Engineers and contractors are currently assessing the necessary repairs," said John Hofmann, regional manager.  "Once the assessment is complete, we will have a better idea of how long it will take to repair the problem and return the raw water line back to operational status.  Until that time, we strongly urge our customers to reduce their water use as much as possible."

The pipeline is a 26-mile water transportation system that began operation in 2004 to link Stillhouse Hollow Lake in Bell County to Lake Georgetown in Williamson County.  It allows the Authority to operate the two reservoirs as one system, moving water to Lake Georgetown for the growing communities north of Austin.  The system includes a pump station and deep-water intake structure on Stillhouse Hollow Lake.

At this time, the Brazos River Authority anticipates a repair period of approximately 14 days. However, this timeframe may change as repairs begin.  

"It is imperative that everyone adhere to the restrictions put in place by their water providers," said Hofmann.  "Without swift action from the Brazos River Authority, its customers, and the public, within 4 weeks we will see impacts to the ability of our customers to draw water from the lake. If everyone conserves, our water supplies will last longer."

The Stillhouse Hollow-Georgetown Lake System entered a Stage 1 Drought Watch at the beginning of August as its storage capacity trigger of 203,000 acre-feet (af) was met. At that time, customers were advised that water conservation was recommended.  To date, the system had not reached the storage capacity trigger for Stage 2. However, as a result of the intake failure, the Authority immediately declared a Stage 3 Drought Emergency specifically for Lake Georgetown with notice that customers should take measures to decrease water use in order to ensure drinking water availability.  Only customers that access their water from Lake Georgetown are affected by the Stage 3 Drought Emergency Declaration.

The Authority continually monitors weather forecasts, streamflows and lake levels throughout the Brazos River basin.  At this time, all reservoirs within the Authority system are in Stage 1-Drought Watch with the exception of Lakes Proctor and Limestone, which are at Stage 2 levels, and Lake Somerville, which is currently in Stage 3.  The Authority reminds everyone that these extreme conditions are very serious and urges all to begin implementing conservation measures as directed by their water provider. 

A copy of the Brazos River Authority's Drought Contingency Plan can be found at the following web address http://www.brazos.org/DroughtContingency.asp or by contacting the Authority at (254) 761-3100.

Posted: Friday, October 07, 2011

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