Drilling for water in your front yard

AUSTIN (KXAN) – The number of Austinites bypassing the city’s water restriction by drilling their own water wells is growing every day, and it is perfectly legal.

Right now, Austin is under Stage 2 water restrictions , meaning citizens can only water their lawns once a week if they use city water. But what is under the ground – the Edward’s Aquifer – is apparently up for grabs locally.

Most wells are popping up in the wealthy Pemberton Heights and Tarrytown neighborhoods. The Texas Water Development Board shows crews have drilled 47 new water wells in Austin last year alone and 153 since 2006.

Most of Travis County does not have a water conservation district, so there are really no rules saying homeowners cannot tap this source. The majority of customers are using it to water their lawns, not for drinking water.

“You’ll see some areas that are just lush and green,” said Jim Blair, president of Bee Cave Drilling . “Three years ago, we were a drilling company that relied on new home construction, until that business dried up with the economy.”

Since then, the company has made a splash with water wells, averaging about 15 requests a day in Austin. These projects now make up 80 percent of their work.

Blair said each well takes about two weeks to complete. Installation runs $20,000 to $40,000.

“Customers, on average, can break even in about three years after they install the well,” he said.

Customers argue their savings mean less water out of Lake Travis. The city does not actively use the aquifer below, so it is not a real concern for water officials just yet.

“Regulations most likely will have to come into play, depending on the amount of people who actually do have the resources to be able to dig wells to get water from the aquifer,” said Jason Hill, spokesman for the Austin Water Utility.

Blair cautions his customers to conserve, even with their wells. But this business is something he does not see slowing down even without the drought.

“It might be wet this year, but it’s going

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