Pipeline repair forcing Leander residents to conserve water

The city of Leander is in Phase 4 conservation measures ahead of repairs to a raw water pipeline. 

The measures prohibit all outdoor watering, and Leander water customers are asked to turn off irrigation systems completely and limit other nonessential uses until further notice.

The measures are to prepare for repairs to the Brushy Creek Regional Utility Authority (BCRUA) raw water pipeline. During ongoing underwater inspections by the BCRUA on Aug. 8, contractors discovered a new leak in the section of the pipeline previously repaired in 2021. The pipeline supplies raw water from Lake Travis into the BCRUA water treatment facility, Leander's primary source for treated drinking water.

BCRUA pipeline repair work is scheduled to begin Wednesday, Sept. 21, and may last 10-14 days, says the city. During this time, the BCRUA water treatment plant will be out of service and Leander's water treatment capacity will be reduced by more than 50 percent from 25 to 9 million gallons per day. In July, average Leander water use was about 18 million gallons per day.

While residents say they understand why they can't water, it's frustrating watching their plants wilt. 

"My beautiful rose bush here, I waited three years to get this thing, and I finally got it, my prized Paul McCartney rose, and now look at it. I planted it three weeks ago and the poor thing is struggling," Joe Rasenberger said.

He says other parts of his garden are also struggling.

"I bought a whole bunch of stuff for my lawn, plugs, to get my lawn to grow back in, and now, couple hundred dollars worth of plugs, they're all dying," he said. "All of my Bermuda died. My favorite grass is the Bermuda grass, and it needs a lot of water." 

Diane Beierle has the same concern. "I'm so worried about [my plants]. We spend hundreds of dollars on flowers and our plants, are they just all going to die now?" she said.

Residents can report water violations to the city.

"I wouldn't do that to my neighbors, but I'm sure people are waiting by their telephones to make a phone call," Rasenberger said with a laugh.

For Debra Bazzell, somebody did call. She thought her sprinkler system was turned off after testing it, but it was still running.

"We did get a call from the city and the gentleman was very nice, and I said, 'are you going to fine us?' and he said, 'no we usually give a couple notices first before we actually do a fine,'" she said. "My husband disconnected everything until we can start using our sprinklers again."

While the pipeline is getting fixed, the city has to use another smaller water treatment plant.

"We believe our residents can do this. We know that Leander is unique. We have a small town feel where people are connected, and they care about each other. We know we'll look out for each other. We've been through hard times before, and we're going to get through this as well," Mayor Christine DeLisle said in an online video.

"It's kind of sad, but I hope it gets fixed real soon," Beierle said. "We were just at the grocery store, and we saw all these flowers and plants and mums, and we're like, 'nope we can't buy any of that.'"

Another concern for residents is the growing population and how the water supply will keep up.

"They keep building, there's not [a] moratorium on building which is very important if we don't have water," Rasenberger said.

"Where's all this water going to come from?" Bazzell said.

On Monday, the city will stop water connections for construction and put off installing new water meters.