Nov 20, 2018

Austin, Texas, Considers Long-Term Water Management Plan

Following recent flooding, the plan calls for greywater recycling and underground reservoirs to store drinking water

Austin Water proposes water reuse plan for long-term drinking water solution
Austin Water proposes water reuse plan for long-term drinking water solution

Following a recent city-wide boil water notice in Austin, Texas, due to flooding that filled water supply lakes with sediment, the city has released a new water resiliency plan called Water Forward. The plan focuses on using giant artificial aquifers to store billions of gallons of potable water underground, as well as reusing greywater for nonpotable uses.  

While drafting the plan has been underway since 2014, city council members received their first briefing on the result when the recent water restrictions were lifted. Council members now will wait until the week of Nov. 29, when the Water Forward plan will be posted for a formal vote.

“I truly believe that the water plan you are considering today is the most important water plan that’s been produced in the U.S.” said Task Force Chairwoman Sharlene Leurig. “We are turning on its head a fundamental notion that has governed nearly all water planning in the western U.S., that for a city to grow it must take water resources from other communities.”

The plan focuses on long-term water resiliency for the growing city, with demographic estimates that suggest the number of people drinking water in Austin will rise from approximately 1 million currently to 4 million over the next 100 years, as reported by the Austin Statesman.

The Water Forward plan calls for conservation efforts and new water sources to cope with a rising population but dwindling water source. The plan proposes using smart water meters for real-time monitoring, promoting water-efficient landscaping and minimizing leaks. It also advocates for the use of greywater for uses such as toilet flushing, landscaping and cooling towers. Finally, an aquifer storage system would create an underground reservoir for a backup water supply, as reported by Fox Austin.

Water Forward “will help us meet resiliency, both in terms of drought, as well as in terms of river quality upset as we experienced here recently,” said Austin Water Director Greg Meszaros. “So it’s a red-letter day for the utility to be unveiling this plan.”

The estimated price tag of this long-term project is $429 million over the next 21 years, with other water initiative and upgrades estimated at $614 million.