Residents of the Texas state capital may have to boil their tap water for as long as two weeks, an official said Tuesday, as authorities struggled to treat a water supply filled with silt, mud, and debris after heavy rains and flooding. The Austin American-Statesman reports that Travis County Chief Emergency Management Coordinator Eric Carter told a county commissioners court meeting that 888,000 people in Austin may have to wait 10-14 days for the system to settle. On Monday, the city told 1 million-plus residents to boil water for drinking, cooking, and making ice. Officials are also urging drastic reductions in water use and banning outdoor watering, car washing, and using water to fill pools and spas, reports the AP.
There has been no indication of bacterial infiltration so far. But Austin Water warned that insufficiently treated water could contain bacteria, viruses, and parasites that can cause diarrhea, cramps, nausea, headaches, and other illness. It said infants, young children, some of the elderly, and people with severely compromised immune systems would be at risk. The boil-water notice has prompted a rush on grocery and convenience stores where shelves previously filled with bottled water stand empty. Some restaurants closed, while school districts modified their menus to make it easier to use boiled water. The Austin Business Journal notes the city's Starbucks locations are open but not serving coffee or espresso drinks, for instance. (Here's what area jails are doing to cope.)