What is Spicewood Beach?
Spicewood Beach is a small community of some 1,100 people about 40 miles outside of Austin, Texas in the Hill County. On January, 30, 2012, it became the first Texas town to run dry during the current drought.
The community sits on Lake Travis, or what’s left of it. The lake is currently at levels not seen for some time.
The Spicewood Beach water system has 500 water meters, one of them belonging to the Spicewood Beach Elementary School. While the lakefront location of the community and streets named “Golf Course Drive” give the impression of an opulent neighborhood, the reality is that Spicewood Beach is largely populated by double-wide trailers and retirees on modest budgets.
How did it run dry?
On January 4th, the Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA), which owns and operates the water system in Spicewood Beach, announced Stage 3 water restrictions for the town. It also told two water haulers that had contracted to purchase and withdraw water from the system that they could no longer truck water out from Spicewood Beach.
A few weeks later, on January 23, 2012, the LCRA sent out a release warning that the community’s wells had dropped to dangerously low levels and that they could run dry within weeks. Stage 4 emergency water restrictions — which prohibit all outdoor watering and allow only “essential” use of water were enacted.
Then overnight, the community’s wells dropped over a foot, and the LCRA updated its warning on the wells, saying they could run dry within days.
And that’s exactly what happened. On January 30, 2012 a tanker truck carrying 4,000 gallons of water pulled up to a storage tank in Spicewood Beach and began pumping out water. While water had been trucked out of the community just weeks before, it’s now being trucked in.
The LCRA expects that unless drought conditions change significantly, they could be trucking in water for six to eight more months while a long-term solution is sought. Those three to four loads a day cost about $200 each, and the LCRA says they will absorb the cost.