Austin Water's annual consumer confidence report describes the overall quality of water from its raw collection and storage to the treated purity at your tap. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requires that all drinking water suppliers provide a water quality report to their customers on an annual basis.
2022 Water Quality Report
Click on any report to view it as a larger, printable Adobe PDF file.
Do you need the free Adobe® Reader® for PDF files? Click here to download Adobe Reader.
- Special Notice - You may be more vulnerable than the general population to certain microbial contaminants, such as Cryptosporidium, in drinking water. Infants, some elderly or immunocompromised persons such as those undergoing chemotherapy for cancer; those who have undergone organ transplants; those who are undergoing treatment with steroids; and people with HIV/AIDS or other immune system disorders can be particularly at risk from infections. You should seek advice about drinking water from your physician or health care provider. Additional guidelines on appropriate means to lessen the risk of infection by Cryptosporidium are available from the Safe Drinking Water Hotline at 800-426-4791.
- En Español: Este reporte incluye información importante sobre el agua para tomar. Para asistencia en español, por favor llame al 512-972-0459.
About Your Water
- Where Your Drinking Water Comes From
Austin Water customers receive their drinking water from three water treatment plants that pump surface water from the Lower Colorado River as it flows through Lakes Travis and Austin. Raw water from those Highland Lakes is treated according to federal and state standards to remove possible harmful contaminants.
- We Protect the Source
The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) completed an assessment of our source water and results indicate that some of our sources are susceptible to certain contaminants. The sampling requirements for the water system are based on this susceptibility and previous sample data. Any detection of these contaminants will be found in this Consumer Confidence Report. For more information on source water assessments and protection efforts of our system, contact Austin Water’s Water Quality Manager at 512-972-0012.
- What Is In Your Drinking Water
The sources of drinking water nationwide (both tap water and bottled water) include rivers, lakes, streams, ponds, reservoirs, springs and wells. As water travels over the surface of the land or through the ground, it dissolves naturally occurring minerals and, in some cases, radioactive material and can be polluted by animals or human activity.
Contaminants that may be present in the source water include:
- Microbial contaminants, such as viruses and bacteria, which may come from sewage treatment plants, septic systems, agricultural livestock operations and wildlife.
- Inorganic contaminants, such as salts and metals, which can be naturally occurring or result from urban storm water runoff, industrial or domestic wastewater discharges, oil and gas production, mining or farming.
- Pesticides and herbicides, which may come from a variety of sources such as agriculture, storm water runoff and residential uses.
- Organic chemicals, including synthetic and volatile organic chemicals, which are byproducts of industrial processes and petroleum production and can also come from gas stations, urban storm water runoff and septic systems.
- Radioactive contaminants, which can be naturally occurring or the result of oil and gas production and mining activities.
In order to ensure that tap water is safe to drink, the EPA prescribes regulations which limit amounts of certain contaminants in water provided by public water systems. The Food and Drug Administration regulations establish limits for contaminants in bottled water which must provide the same protection for public health.
Contaminants may be found in drinking water that may cause taste, color or odor problems. These types of problems are not necessarily a cause for health concerns. For concerns with taste, odor or color of drinking water, contact Austin Water at 512- 972-0012.
Drinking water, including bottled water, may reasonably be expected to contain at least small amounts of some contaminants. The presence of contaminants does not necessarily indicate that the water poses a health risk. More information about contaminants and potential health effects can be obtained by calling the EPA’s Safe Drinking Water Hotline at 800-426-4791.
- Continuous Sampling and Testing
Austin Water collects and tests samples at our treatment plants and across our water system multiple times a day, every day, for bacteria and chemicals that could pose a risk to our customers. Our highest priority is to be sure that our water continues to be safe to drink.
We have taken steps to protect drinking water safety and quality that include:
Protecting Vital Infrastructure
- A copper sulfate feed system was installed in 2020 to protect raw water piping against zebra mussels that can damage equipment and affect taste and odor in drinking water.
- Following the devastating impacts of Winter Storm Uri in 2021, Austin Water’s infrastructure was repaired and winterized to be more resilient during future extreme freezing weather events.
- Austin Water sets treatment goals and quality standards that are beyond the minimum state and federal regulatory requirements to provide our customers superior water. Texas Commission on Environmental Quality requirements call for 0.3 NTU or less in water clarity (turbidity), but Austin Water’s goal is 0.1 NTU or lower – and we consistently achieve this standard on average month after month, year after year.
- Implementation of a polymer feed system began in 2020, starting with Austin’s largest water treatment plant, to strengthen flood resiliency and improve filter performance, especially during flooding events when high turbidity can occur in raw source water from the lakes. Polymer systems are now fully operational across all three water treatment plants.
- Powdered activated carbon is added as part of the treatment process to minimize taste and odor issues so that drinking water tastes fresh.
- In addition to using on-line equipment that continuously monitors treatment performance in real-time, licensed plant operators conduct water testing at least every two hours during multiple phases of the treatment process every day. This testing includes checks on the levels of chlorine/ chloramine residual, turbidity, pH, alkalinity and hardness removal.
Quality Control in Storage, Pressure and Pipes
- Water storage tanks are tested monthly for bacteriological contaminants to ensure water is within established parameters and remains at the same high quality as the moment it left the treatment plant.
- Water quality instruments, monitoring in real time, are installed at every major pressure zone to ensure healthy levels of total chlorine residuals are maintained. Chlorine residuals indicate that disinfection measures remain in treated water.
- Proactive water line replacement is underway, strengthening water distribution networks in 60 subdivisions and consisting of more than 6,000 water lines. This work will reduce line breaks and minimize the risk of contaminant infiltration.
Finished Drinking Water Testing
- Annual maintenance is conducted on every fire hydrant in the city as well as other service points to flush and cycle water throughout the system so that water remains fresh at all points in our service area.
- In 2022, Austin Water increased the frequency of testing above what is required by regulatory agencies to confirm water quality and safety. In addition to daily testing at each water treatment plant, a minimum of 300 tests are taken every month to check for bacteriological contaminants, total chlorine residual levels and other important parameters throughout the water distribution system.
Monitoring For Health Risks
Cryptosporidium is a parasite that can create an infection called gastroenteritis. Infection from Cryptosporidium organisms can occur in humans and animals and is spread by contact with soil, water, food or surfaces that have been contaminated. Austin Water monitors our lakes for Cryptosporidium because surface water sources are known to be susceptible to this contaminant. During the 2022 monitoring for Cryptosporidium, eight samples reported no detection, two samples reported a detection of one oocyst and one sample reported a detection of three oocysts. The treatment processes employed at Austin Water’s treatment plants are effective for removal of Cryptosporidium.
- Harmful Algal Blooms
Cyanobacteria, also called blue-green algae, are microscopic organisms found naturally in surface waters. These organisms use sunlight to make their own food. In warm, nutrient-rich waters, cyanobacteria can multiply quickly, creating algal blooms that spread across the water’s surface.
Some algae can be harmful to humans and animals, and Austin Water has regularly monitored raw source water, as well as treated drinking water for the presence of cyanobacteria since 1992 and cyanotoxins since 2015. Austin Water conducts routine testing for the presence of cyanotoxins in both raw lake water taken from Lake Austin and Lake Travis, as well as in water that has finished the treatment process at the Handcox, Davis and Ullrich Treatment Plants. Testing for the presence of cyanobacteria and other microscopic algae in raw lake water is conducted at least weekly, and cyanotoxin testing is performed on a routine basis. Sampling frequency is adjusted based on changing conditions.
In addition, Austin Water has invested in leading-edge technology to shorten the time between sampling and test results to protect public health and safety. We are able to use digital imaging particle analysis to detect harmful algae, as well as same day testing instruments in our own lab. We also meet regularly with our counterparts at the City of Austin’s Watershed Protection Department and the Lower Colorado River Authority to review and report on our respective testing and mitigation approaches.
Austin Water uses several processes in our treatment plants that are effective in removing cyanobacteria and cyanotoxins. The harmful cells containing the toxins can be physically removed through the coagulation, flocculation, sedimentation and filtration process. Chlorine, which is part of the plant’s disinfection process, is destructive to cyanotoxins. Finally, the powdered activated carbon that is used to remove taste and odor causing compounds also removes cyanotoxins.
- Per- and Polyfluorinated Substances (PFAS)
PFAS are chemicals that are manufactured to enhance everyday products. These chemicals are slow to break down and are now present everywhere - in food, water and soil, as well as clothing, cookware, cosmetics and other common household items. Unfortunately, long term exposure to PFAS can lead to illnesses such as cancer and thyroid disease. The EPA is currently evaluating exposure to PFAS in drinking water to provide guidance on which chemicals pose the greatest risks and at what level.
Austin Water has been following EPA advisories on PFAS closely to determine the most appropriate testing protocols and treatment options for our region. It is important to note that the risk of PFAS exposure is not uniform across the country and is dependent on locations of source water and potential industrial or discharge sites that could impact source water quality. Austin is fortunate to draw from the Highland Lakes for our drinking water, which has had many decades-long environmental protections in place, including a ban prohibiting the discharge of pollutants. The risk of exposure to PFAS in drinking water here is much lower than other more industrialized jurisdictions.
Past sampling conducted by Austin Water for six PFAS chemicals showed no detections. Austin Water will collect quarterly samples of treated water from our treatment plants to test for 29 different PFAS chemicals in 2023. This testing will be conducted in accordance with EPA guidelines.
Water Quality and Regulatory Parameters
Austin Water’s three water treatment plants were in compliance with turbidity standards in 2022, with the exception of one event. Ullrich Water Treatment Plant received a treatment technique violation for combined filter effluent turbidity above 1 NTU between February 5 and 6, 2022. Austin Water issued a boil water notice covering this period as a precaution to protect public health.
Turbidity is a measure of the presence of particles, or cloudiness, in the water. Turbidity has no health effects, but particles can shield microorganisms from disinfection. Turbidity is therefore regulated because it may indicate the presence of disease-causing organisms. These organisms include bacteria, viruses and parasites that can cause symptoms such as nausea, cramps, diarrhea and associated headaches.
Austin Water has taken action to address the operational issues that caused last year’s turbidity event in order to prevent a recurrence. Actions taken include:
- Improvements in remote monitoring
- Installation of timer-based controls
- Enhanced plant staff shift turnover communications
Austin Water continues to make strategic investments in infrastructure improvements and upgrades to strengthen operational resiliency at all three drinking water treatment plants.
The annual Consumer Confidence Report below describes the overall quality of water from its raw collection and storage to the treated purity at your tap.
- Fluoride and Infants
In 1945, municipalities began adding fluoride to drinking water to fight tooth decay. Follow up studies in these communities over 13-15 years showed a 50-70% reduction in cavities. Because of the potential public health benefits to residents, the City of Austin held a public vote on fluoridation in the early 1970s. The referendum passed with the support of the community, and Austin Water began adding fluoride to the water on February 2, 1973.
Water fluoridated at a level optimal for oral health (as is used in Austin) poses no known health risks for infants. However, some children may develop enamel fluorosis, a cosmetic condition where faint white markings or streaks may appear on the teeth. If you’re concerned about fluorosis, you can minimize your baby’s exposure by breast feeding or using readyto-feed formula. You can also alternate tap water and non-fluoridated water for formula preparation or mix powered or liquid infant formula concentrate with low-fluoride water most or all of the time. If you use only non-fluoridated water, such as purified, deionized or distilled water to prepare your baby’s formula, your doctor may recommend fluoride supplements.
Stay Informed About Your Water
- Monthly Board and Commission Meetings
There are many opportunities for public input and participation on issues and topics related to water quality. Attend an Austin City Council or Water & Wastewater Commission meeting to learn more. Meeting agendas, dates and times can be found by visiting www.austintexas.gov/department/city-council/councilmeetings and www.austintexas.gov/content/water-and-wastewater-commission.
- Social Media
Follow Austin Water on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for information about water quality, updates about infrastructure improvements we’re making to be more resilient, fun lessons for students or opportunities to get involved with water planning in our community. We also share helpful tips on conservation, landscaping and how to protect your pipes during extreme weather events.
- Infrastructure Investments
Austin Water continues to make strategic investments in infrastructure improvements to strengthen the water distribution system, proactively replace water lines and reduce the number of line breaks and the risk of infiltrating contaminants.
The American Water Works Association and Texas Water Development Board establish industry standards for water loss, known as the Infrastructure Leak Index or ILI. Water loss is a function of leakage from the mains and fixtures and a utility’s ILI is scaled to take into account the number of connections and the miles of mains in the system. ILI is not affected by water use or population, which varies from city to city.
For a utility the size of Austin Water, an ILI of between 3 and 5 is considered appropriate. Austin Water’s ILI for 2022 was 4.09.
Contact us at 512-972-1000 or visit austinwater.org to learn more.
Get the Lead Out
Austin Water has been evaluating and inspecting our system’s service lines and will complete our inventory of all lines by October of 2024.
To date, Austin Water has:
- Found no lead in active service lines.
- Researched service lines to all schools we serve – none contain lead.
- Researched service lines to all licensed daycares we serve – none contain lead.
- Expanded testing beyond what the EPA requires.
- Will provide customers with support if a lead service line is suspected (free filter pitcher, flushing instructions and free water testing).
- Check Your Home or Business
If present, lead sources may be found on the property owner’s side of the meter. Even if a property owner may have lead piping, it does not mean they have been exposed to lead. Lime softening is part of Austin Water’s treatment process and this helps prevent pipe corrosion and reduces the risk of lead exposure. However, a good strategy to protect against lead is to identify and replace potential sources of lead on private property. A plumber can advise on the type of pipes in your home or business.
Some common sources of lead can include: pipes, solder, brass plumbing fixtures, faucets and pipe fittings. These lead sources are more likely to be found in homes and buildings built before 1986. Due to the City of Austin’s early adoption of lead prevention and updated land development criteria, these lead sources are less common than many other major cities across the United States.
- Sources of Lead In Drinking Water
If present, lead can cause serious health problems, especially for pregnant women and young children. In Austin, lead occurs in drinking water primarily from materials and components associated with home plumbing systems. Austin Water is responsible for providing high quality drinking water but cannot control the variety of materials used in plumbing components. To minimize the potential for lead exposure, flush your tap for 30 seconds to 2 minutes before using it for drinking or cooking - especially if water has been sitting in pipes without running for several hours.
If you are concerned about lead in your water, you may wish to have your water tested. Information on lead in drinking water, testing methods and steps you can take to minimize exposure is available from the Safe Drinking Water Hotline 800-426-4791 or www.epa.gov/safewater/lead. Find information about how Austin Water is keeping lead out of our customer’s water at www.austintexas.gov/lead.
A list of frequently asked questions is available.
Monthly and quarterly summaries of water quality parameters in finished drinking water.