The Austin water and wastewater utility continues to provide oh-so-flavorful water. And service is even better than that. Yesterday afternoon upon arriving home a bit early to prepare for visitors, I found the front right-of-way between the sidewalk and the curb being excavated. The intention was to replace the City-side water shut-off valve, which the City itself has over time reduced to a stub. The pipes inside the house were rattling. The hose had been taken off the hose bib and not reconnected properly. This is very difficult to do and we haven’t yet been able to reattach it properly, either. Lots of water had been run, and this is one of the months during which the rate of water-use establishes billing rates for the next billing year.

The valve was being replaced prior to replacement of the original water meter. We had an unexplained jump in our water bill last time around, and a horrible whine in the pipes. Now it can be guessed that the City had made an earlier attempt to replace the meter but had completely destroyed the handle on the cut-off valve, run a lot of water, and not bled the pipes of air before turning the water back on.

Now, there’s an even worse noise in the pipes. There’s caliche stain in the sidewalks and in the street and gutters. We’ll probably never be able to get the garden hose reattached to our satisfaction. When the meter is eventually replaced, the noise in the pipes will be even worse. The pipes under the house must have been rattled to the point where minerals were dislodged. Our best tap is the one in the kitchen for cold water, and now the flow is reduced to nearly nothing.

This morning I had assembled all the ingredients for a Breton chocolate pound cake when the electricity, supplied by the Austin municipal power company, went off. Because the weather’s so beautiful there didn’t seem to be any neighbors at home with whom to compare notes on the situation. (Here’s a favorite quotation from the City the last time this happened: “Ninety per cent of the time it’s squirrels.”)

After a wait on hold for 35 minutes, I reached a live voice, which revealed (only in response to specific questions) that the outage was widespread, that the number of customers without power was probably between 1,000 and 1,500, and that there was no estimate of what had caused the outage or when power would return.

After an hour and a half or more, power was restored and the cake was baked. Little now remains of the cake. Much remains of dissatisfaction with utility services. And the water meter has yet to be replaced. And the water still smells bad and tastes worse.

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