Summer in Austin can be awesome – there are so many ways to enjoy all that our wonderful city has to offer, but there are precautions to take, too. Being aware of air quality, drought conditions, and fire danger during a Texas summer is a necessity.
Despite a nice, wet spring, Central Texas has not yet recovered from last year’s record-breaking drought. Austin and Pflugerville are currently under mandatory water restrictions while Round Rock has a volunteer water conservation plan in place. Because our environment is still very dry, the risk of wildfire is still high. Currently there is not a burn ban in place, but the Travis County Fire Marshal provides some tips on how to help prevent wildfires. Stay tuned as summer progresses; it is likely that water restrictions will change and burn bans will be put into effect as summer gets hotter and drier over the next couple of months.
In addition to thinking about how to keep our environment safe, we also have to consider how to keep ourselves safe in our environment. When the temperatures go up, so does our air pollution. While Austin is neither at the top nor at the bottom of the clean air scale according to the American Lung Association, it does have moderate pollution. The Texas Commission on Envirommental Quality publishes an ozone forecast daily, which can help you plan your outdoor activities. Short-term exposure to high-levels of ozone can cause lung irritation while long-term exposure can cause lung damage. At risk are young children, the elderly, and anyone with a lung condition such as asthma. Limiting the amount of time you spend outside when the ozone levels are high can help protect your health. Refer to Texas Department of Transportation site for information about ozone action days, which are declared when the accumulation of unhealthy levels of ground-level ozone is expected due to hot, sunny weather.
You can take steps to help reduce the level of ozone in your environment and thus protect yourself and your neighbors: drive less whenever you can. Carpool, work from home, or use public transportation. You also can help by reporting smoking vehicles, maintaining your vehicle, fueling your vehicle in the evening, and maintaining correct tire pressure for your vehicle.