Austin’s Water Crisis Reveals Deeper Problems – And A Potential Solution
Lady Bird Lake in Downtown Austin, TX, has been described lately as “chocolate milk” because of the large quantities of silt floating in the water after a historic flood hit the city.Tanima/my_clicks_atx via Instagram
After a period of unprecedented rain that raised area lakes up to record highs, residents of Austin, Texas and surrounds woke up on Monday, October 22 to news of a city-wide water boil order from city authorities. Flood waters had overwhelmed the city’s filtration system, and our drinking water was deemed unsafe due to large amounts of silt and residues. The City of Austin also called for an immediate reduction of water consumption by 20% to avoid running out of water altogether.
The City of Austin continues pleading for citizens to limit water consumption and boil water for drinking and eating until further notice.Austin Water
Although tests revealed no dangerous levels of harmful bacteria, Austinites still responded like it was the zombie apocalypse. Within minutes of the announcement store shelves were empty, and people were standing in hour-long lines to purchase bottled water. Social media buzzed with memes and posts about people practically trampling old ladies to get to the last few bottles. Reports of people hoarding cases of bottled water and selling to their neighbors for $50 a gallon and school employees selling $2 bottles to middle-school children were not exaggerated.
Businesses are scrambling to stay open, and local breweries started offering free boiled water to anyone that brings containers to fill, at least for the time being. I stayed home, put on a large stock pot on the stove, and boiled enough water for me and my dogs to drink and use. I am also running it through the filter pitcher just in case. It’s not that hard.
Shelves at local HEB grocery stores went bare within minutes after the City of Austin announced the water boil notice. Ann Hudspeth
Aside from the obvious ethical implications, water hoarders created another issue: places like animal shelters, homeless refuges, hospitals and other such locations would not be able to boil enough water to meet their needs, and the bottled water shortage created by non-resourceful people (let’s not call them lazy) really put these places in a bind.
But what this water frenzy revealed is a bigger picture regarding the imminent need to conserve water for the long run, as well as where Austin’s local bottling companies are sourcing their water, and how are they projecting and producing with this the ordinance. I reached out to three local companies, and received the following statement from Richard’s Rainwater:
“Due to city wide boil order, Richard’s Rainwater, which is unaffected by this ordinance, is donating as much of its real rainwater as possible during this period. If you are a school, non-profit or shelter in need, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
and we will be in touch. Our commitment to Austin is to do our very best to provide clean water in this time of need while supplies last.”
Richard’s Rainwater bottles still and sparkling rain water that is triple filtered and free of contaminants. Ahsley cabbito
Since I didn’t receive a reply from any other water bottling company, I reached out to research Richard’s Rainwater further. Founded in 2002 by Richard Heinichen, Richard’s Rainwater is the first FDA approved bottled rainwater company in the U.S. that produces still and sparkling rainwater. As the name indicates, the company bottles pure rain water free from pollutants, salts, minerals and other contaminants. It contains no environmental runoff, debris or silt and it doesn’t deplete municipal sources that are used to ensure the community’s basic water needs.
Richard Heinechen supervises increased bottling production to meet current demand for bottled water in Austin.Madeline Burrows
“Rainwater is the most sustainable source of water on the planet,” says CEO Taylor O’Neil. “Our zero-waste purification process uses less energy than competitors and our growth plan focused on catching rainwater in many different locations all over the country will allow us to limit emissions from shipping. Our goal is to become the most sustainable bottled water company we can be.”
Richard’s Rainwater collection tanks in Dripping Springs, known locally as Tank Town.Ashley Chinni
Here is a rundown of their “cloud to bottle” process: First, rainwater is captured before it ever touches the ground, which keeps it from absorbing any natural or man-made contaminates. It is triple filtered through a proprietary, all-natural purification process that includes ultraviolet light, reverse osmosis and ozone instead of chlorine. Their purification process has zero waste, speeds up the hydrologic cycle and decreases the demand for water from wells, lakes, rivers and streams. Heinichen himself has installed over 1,000 rainwater collection systems across Texas, which he firmly believes is the future of water consumption. Richard’s Rainwater’s heartfelt mission is to help solve the world’s water crises.
Richard’s Rainwater’s team has been working around the clock to produce and deliver as much water as possible to Austin residents and organizations in need.Richard’s Rainwater
Since the boil-water ordinance went in effect, Richard’s Rainwater has given out upwards of ten thousand bottles to local charities, schools and animal shelters. But charity is not new to this company. They are also a sponsor of the Run for the Water, happening on November 4th in conjunction with the Gazelle Foundation to raise awareness about the world’s water crises, and specifically to improve the quality of life for the people in Burundi by providing access to clean water.
While we keep boiling and conserving water, it is reassuring to know that someone out there cares enough for the well being of the many rather than that of the few. Plus, a clearer picture seems to be emerging that we should look above instead of below for our future water needs.
I am an experienced writer covering all things dining and drinking, widely published since 2000. I was born and raised in Mexico City, and after obtaining my B.A. in Anthropology from the University of Texas I focused my studies on food culture.