Austin Water has set a positive example for other utilities in the wake of a winter storm earlier this year that had widespread impacts throughout Texas and surrounding areas. Not only did it complete an after action report (AAR), it recently announced it had followed through on the findings and recommendations with numerous resilience enhancements, with more to come.
Austin Water’s AAR notes the winter storm, named “Uri,” caused damage to water treatment plants that, taken together with the widespread power outages, resulted in widespread water outages and all customers experiencing a boil water notice. In addition to repairing broken equipment, Austin Water notes it insulated exposed piping. “Austin Water crews have worked diligently to repair damage at our water treatment plants and strengthen our readiness for the winter season,” said Austin Water Operations Manager Stephanie Sue. “These efforts began immediately following Winter Storm Uri and continue to be prioritized. We have learned from this year’s event and have taken action to be ready for future extreme weather.”
The modifications aren’t just to equipment, they also affect operations. For example, Austin Water states it modified the winter maintenance schedule so that water treatment plants are capable of increasing water production quickly if customer demand sharply increases due to dripping faucets or leaks due to burst pipes, such as those experienced during Uri. While many of the enhancements are short-term and have already been implemented, others are still in progress. Austin Water reports it is working to improve power resiliency with construction underway on a new electrical substation at one water treatment plant and construction nearing completion on power distribution upgrades at another plant.