About Watershed Protection

Originally called the Drainage Utility, the Watershed Protection Department was established in 1991 to manage the City’s creeks, drainage systems and water quality programs. Our focus is reducing the impact of flooding, erosion and water pollution. We have a multi-tiered approach including: 

  • A wide variety of programs to maintain infrastructure, protect against erosion and flooding, and fight against pollution 
  • Construction projects, both large-scale Capital Improvement Projects and smaller in-house projects, to fix existing problems. 
  • Regulations on development to prevent future problems.  

Our budget for Fiscal Year 2023 is $115 million and we have 443 employees. We are mostly funded by the drainage charge on your utility bill. Some projects also receive bond or grant funding.

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Austin is in the heart of Flash Flood Alley and particularly vulnerable to flooding. More than 7,000 buildings and 400 roads are prone to flooding during a 100-year flood. But the problem could be worse. Austin adopted drainage regulations in the early 1980s, which helped prevent a lot of development within the floodplain during years of intense population growth. These regulations also help ensure new development does not aggravate flooding problems. We also upgrade our infrastructure through construction projects. Many of these projects are aimed at improving drainage systems that pre-date our drainage regulations. Find out more at the links below: 


Austin’s erosion problems may not be as well-known as its flooding problems, but erosion is also a significant public safety concern. Urbanization changes drainage patterns and increases how fast water runs off land and into creeks. This in turn increases erosion problems along creek banks.

We have investigated and assessed more than 2,100 creek erosion sites. The number continues to grow in large part due to community reporting. We evaluate creek erosion that threatens resources like houses, apartments, roads, wastewater infrastructure, fences and parkland. We prioritize construction projects to repair creek erosion. Our regulations also aim to reduce the amount of new erosion problems from developing. 

Water Quality

Watershed Protection monitors the health of our waterways. The water quality in Austin’s creeks ranges from poor to excellent, and there can be variations within the same creek. We protect open space; work with the community to participate as stewards of our water quality; build, monitor and maintain both traditional and green stormwater infrastructure; and respond to pollution emergencies. We also require new developments to treat stormwater runoff from their properties. All these approaches work together and have helped prevent our water quality from deteriorating during decades of rapid population growth. 

About our Drainage System

Austin has approximately 850 miles of creeks, 1,100 miles of storm drains, 30,000 inlets, 1,000 stormwater ponds, 140 acres of open space and 45 rain gardens.

We keep all of this drainage infrastructure functioning. We monitor weather and rainfall as well as our system of gauges when it floods. We barricade flooded roads during storms and remove debris from channel roadway crossings before and after storms. We pick up trash and debris from Lady Bird Lake.

Reports and Publications 

Watershed Protection publishes an Annual Report and a State of Our Environment Report most years. In addition, we publish a variety of reports on specific topics. Here are some links to our more recent reports: 

Environmental Commission

Watershed Protection works closely with Austin’s Environmental Commission, whose members are volunteers appointed by the Austin City Council. The Environmental Commission provides departmental oversight to both the Watershed Protection and the Development Services Departments. The commission makes recommendations to the City Council and relevant Land Use Commissions on important environmental concerns. Find out more about the Environmental Commission

Executive Team

Jorge L. Morales, Director of the Watershed Protection Department

Jorge L. Morales, P.E., has been the director of Watershed Protection since 2019. He is a licensed Professional Engineer and Certified Floodplain Manager with more than 20 years of experience. He previously served as Assistant Director of Austin’s Public Works Department and as a former Sergeant of Communications in the U.S. Army. He has held multiple leadership and volunteer positions in his community, including the Garland Planning and Zoning Commission, professional development organizations, and school volunteer. 

Other members of our executive team include: 

You can reach members of our executive team by calling our administrative offices at 512-974-2540.


  • Katie Coyne, Environmental Officer and Assistant Director, received a Leadership Award from the Austin Young Women’s Alliance, in 2022. 
  • Tom Franke, Graduate Engineer B, received the 2022 Outstanding Achievement Award from the Environmental and Water Resources Institute of the American Society of Civil Engineers. 
  • Trisha Jenkins, Department Occupational Safety Manager, received the Exceptional Performance Award in Safety from the Texas Public Works Association (TPWA) in 2022. 
  • Ramesh Swaminathan, Assistant Director, received the National Community Service Award from the American Public Works Association in 2022. 
  • The Reilly Green Stormwater Infrastructure project received a Texas Raincatcher Award from the Texas Water Development Board in 2022. 
  • Waterloo Park received the 2022 Best Public Space Award from the Urban Land Institute and a “Best of Austin” Critics Picks Award from the Austin Chronicle for Best Park Reboot.

Contact Us

For more information, visit our contact page.

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