Tuesday, October 21st, 2014

Austin mayor's watery claim

Lee Leffingwell pauses in a wastewater pipe, October 2012 (Austin American-Statesman, Ralph Barrera).
Lee Leffingwell pauses in a wastewater pipe, October 2012 (Austin American-Statesman, Ralph Barrera).

Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell lofted a point that caught the ear of Bill Bunch, executive director of the Save Our Springs Alliance, who urged us to check it out.

We like it when readers ask us to poke into claims.

Mayor Leffingwell reminded colleagues at a Dec. 13, 2012, Austin City Council meeting that Austin get its water from the Colorado River and puts its treated wastewater into the river,    

Yuck? "Actually, it’s not as bad as it sounds," Leffingwell said, "because it’s better quality than the water we take out of Lake Austin" for public use. "It’s treated to a high level."

Half True, we concluded after soliciting research on water upstream, downstream and in the effluent put into the river by the Austin Water Utility.

Some indicators suggest the river below Austin is of higher quality for aquatic life than the water in Lake Austin.

But other measurements suggest higher downstream levels of nitrogen and phosphorus.

And separately, the state’s analysis was that some elements of the effluent from the wastewater plants are better, some worse.

Hizzoner’s claim ultimately struck us as oversimplifying a judgment dependent on which of many possible quality indicators is considered significant.

Drink up!