News Feature | July 18, 2023

As Water Scarcity Worsens In Texas, Austin Lost Nearly 7 Billion Gallons Last Year

Peter Chawaga - editor

By Peter Chawaga


One of the Lone Star State’s thirstiest cities is seeing precious drinking water wasted as fundamental infrastructure problems worsen growing scarcity, but the issue may ultimately be an unavoidable aspect of its buried infrastructure.

“From service-line drips to main-line cascades, Austin Water’s pipes leaked more than enough treated water to fill an Olympic-size swimming pool every hour of every day last year,” KXAN reported. “In total, city pipes lost over 6.9 billion gallons of drinkable water in 2022 … an increase of more than 400 million gallons compared to the year before.”

While the amount of treated water being lost might seem staggering, for a utility of Austin Water’s size, it is not unheard of. Serving more than 1 million consumers across more than 250,000 connections and more than 4,000 miles of pipeline, faulty connections and leaks are inevitable. This latest mark actually signifies an improvement from the previous year — in 2020, the city saw more than 7 billion gallons of treated water lost due to leaks.

It’s a problem that Austin Water is well aware of, along with the many other water utilities around the country that are experiencing infrastructure problems.

“Austin Water said it has a ‘rigorous water loss control program’ that includes a 90% response rate within three hours of a reported leak, as well as pipe renewal programs and smart meter installations,” according to KXAN. “‘We are also constantly striving to reduce our losses,’ the utility said in a statement.”

Still, as drought conditions worsen for a state that is exploring solutions like desalination to stretch drinking water supplies, tightening up these infrastructure problems in Austin could soon become more of a priority. Entering the peak of summer, we’ll really see how far Austin’s water can be stretched.

“To make matters worse for Central Texas, we expect to be not only well into the triple digits (in temperature) but to remain completely dry,” Austin’s ABC affiliate recently reported. “Central Texans can expect further regression on the drought monitor until we get to the fall and winter.” To read more about how drinking water utilities respond to treated water loss, visit Water Online’s Water Loss And Leak Detection Solutions Center.