Austin leaders want to keep closer tabs on who has private water wells.
Austin Water Assistant Director Daryl Slusher estimates there are more than 100 private wells in the city’s service area.
"We have to rely on the state and it's not totally up to date, so we don't know exactly how many are out there," he said.
City leaders believe most of the wells are drilled in more affluent neighborhoods, but they are not certain. It’s that uncertainty that is motivating city leaders to require registration for the wells. Plus, they want to make sure the wells are installed properly and they don't contaminate the city's water supply.
"With enough pressure, it could go back into the city system,” Slusher said. “Then, you would be delivering water to customers that's not been through our treatment plants."
Environmental activists like Paul Robbins feel the drought's not the only reason property owners are drilling for their own water.
"Austin has the highest water cost of the top 10 Texas cities," he said.
However, Robbins agrees with the city's tiered water rates—the more you use, the more you pay. He says it motivates water customers to consider landscapes that require less water.
Robbins publishes an environmental directory every year and focuses on consumer habits.
"I think this is one of 10 things that need to happen,” Robbins said. “This is just the first of those 10 steps."
Skeptics worry this is the city's first step toward regulating or shutting down private well drilling, but Slusher says it's only to ensure all Austin Water customers receive the quality they expect.
City staff will spend the next two months drafting up details of the registration program.
With council approval, it would be put into action after Nov.1.