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New water-saving requirements take effect Dec. 1

Wednesday, November 24, 2021 by Amy Smith

Starting Dec. 1, eligible new developments in Austin will need to include water-conservation measures. The new requirements are in response to City Council actions and subsequent code amendments adopted in recent months.

Once the new terms take effect, developments submitting site plans must include a water benchmarking application, while large developments greater than 250,000 square feet will need to consult with Austin Water to discuss water efficiency requirements and incentives for alternative water use.

Large developments within 500 feet of a reclaimed water line must connect to the system and use reclaimed water for non-potable uses such as irrigation and toilet flushing. For large developments with a multifamily component, the new requirements will be waived until Dec. 1, 2023.

Additional water-related requirements will also take effect in 2023, according to a Nov. 18 memo to Council from Austin Water Director Greg Meszaros. The changes include on-site water reuse systems, or OWRS, for developments larger than 250,000 square feet that require a site plan.

City staffers must deliver a report to Council by Sept. 28, 2023, gauging the impact to housing affordability that on-site water reuse systems and other requirements may carry. The water utility will encourage and incentivize builders’ implementation of water-saving measures through its ongoing OWRS pilot incentive program and voluntary reclaimed water connection pilot rebate program.

Through the OWRS pilot, developers could receive up to $250,000 for projects that replace 1 million gallons or more of potable water, or drinking water, per year, or up to $500,000 for projects that replace 3 million gallons or more of city potable water per year. Reclaimed water rebates offer up to $100,000 for eligible properties that voluntarily connect to and use the non-potable water from the city’s reclaimed water system.

By using this phased-in pilot approach with a goal of achieving full compliance, staffers will have sufficient time to gather data from participating developments to determine actual costs of these systems while weighing the costs against potential savings to mitigate impacts on affordability.

The water-saving measures, and additional measures anticipated, grew out of the Council-adopted Water Forward plan, a comprehensive blueprint designed to guide Austin’s water future for the next 100 years.

Photo made available through a Creative Commons license.

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