Please know the truth about Water Treatment Plant No. 4 and its relationship to Austin's water future and protecting Austin resident's and businesses from fire. Make sure your friends, family and colleagues know the truth as well.
Amid drought and 100 degree heat, now is the time for facts, not fear and fear mongering.
Incumbent Austin City Councilmember Randi Shade is broadcasting a TV commercial that claims that her vote for Water Treatment Plant No. 4 "secures a safe reliable water supply for future generations. This claim is false.
The commercial also suggests, with words and scary fire footage, that building WTP4 will help us fight fires. This is false too; building the plant has actually reduced our fire readiness, taking much needed funds away from replacing old failing pipes that cannot deliver adequate fire flows.
Our fire fighting capability is limited by old pipes that are too small, NOT by insufficient treatment capacity. Councilmember Shade and the rest of the council voted to slash the budget for replacing old pipes that leak and break, wasting billions of gallons of water every year into the ground. These are often the same old pipes that are too small to both serve development from the last few decades and provide adequate fire flows. Thus, Shade's and her council colleagues' votes have actually increased our fire danger.
Building WTP4 also makes our water future less safe and secure -by taking much needed funding away from the ONLY actions that will increase our water security - building a water efficient economy in the face of a hotter, drier climate that is already upon us.
How do we build a water efficient economy?? By investing in cost-effective water conservation and reuse measures - and by replacing the old failing water pipes, laid back in the 40s, 50s, and 60s - which break and leak, wasting billions of gallons of water and damaging our roads and homes and businesses.
Yet Councilmember Shade, Mayor Leffingwell and Councilmembers Martinez and Cole have voted to fund the water plant we don't need while making up last year's $52 million revenue shortfall in the water utility by cutting spending for conservation, reuse, and replacing old pipes.
Building WTP4 will do NOTHING to secure a safe or reliable water supply for Austin. The plant does not "make" water: it cannot make it rain and it cannot put water in our lakes.
Nor does it change our legal rights to use water from the Highland Lakes or any other source. Building it - and floating the more than $500 million debt required to build it - will only push the Water Utility to try to sell more water to pay off the debt. In other words, to encourage waste of water. Every incentive for addressing the real threat to our water future - not having enough water - will go out the window while the City tries to pay off the debt over the next 25 years.
Shade's commercial also suggests that if the plant project were put on hold for further study that the city would risk "millions in legal fees." This is also false. The City's WTP4 contracts all provide very clearly that if the City decides to mothball the project that the contractors would be paid for work completed to that point, plus a reasonable amount for wind up costs.
SOS Alliance is not suggesting to anyone how to vote. We are only setting the record straight on issues that have been a priority for us and on which we have reliable information. We have seen these same scare tactics before but not on broadcast TV.
The Bottom Line:
Firefighting in Austin has NEVER been hurt by inadequate water treatment capacity. It has been limited by pipes that are too small and too frail to deliver the water that is needed to fight fires. Funds that should have been spent addressing these problems were cut while spending on WTP4 was ramped up.
Building WTP4 will reduce, not increase, our water security. Building it creates a mirage, giving the appearance of water security, when the real water dangers that threaten our city's future have been neglected by Austin water utility and council majority.