Codes and Regulations

On October 17, 2019, the Austin City Council passed an amendment to the coal tar ban ordinance changing the definition from coal tar containing products to high PAH (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons) pavement products.  The amended ordinance with go into effect January 1st, 2020.  The ordinance prohibits the sale and use of pavement products with more than .1% (1000 ppm) PAH by weight within the City and its ETJ (extra territorial jurisdiction).

Watershed Protection uses administrative criteria (known as “rules”) and ordinances to help prevent flooding, erosion and water pollution. The rules and ordinance processes use City staff and external stakeholders to create and refine regulations.

About 10% of land in Austin is in the floodplain, subject to the dangers of flash flooding. The Floodplain Office administers local and federal development rules, meant to limit damage and protect lives, and maintains floodplain maps and models.

Although review activities are primarily the responsibility of the Planning and Development Review department, the Watershed Protection Department assists with some stormwater and environmental reviews. Find links to criteria manuals on this page.

There are many closed or abandoned landfills in the Austin area. Many operated before landfills were regulated, and may pose environmental or safety risks. Their boundaries are often unknown or poorly defined.

On October 17, 2013, the Austin City Council passed a new Watershed Protection Ordinance, completing Phase 1 of the new ordinance. There's still work to be done on Phase 2, Green Stormwater Infrastructure.

The City of Austin is crossed by multiple hazardous liquids pipelines. To protect health and safety, there are restrictions on the type of structures that may be built within 500 feet of certain pipelines.

Austin's drainage charge is assessed on utility bills and pays for solutions to flooding, erosion and water pollution.

The purpose of the City’s Stormwater Permit Program is to ensure compliance with state and federal regulatory requirements to prevent and control pollution from the city’s storm drain system into creeks, lakes and aquifers.

Sewage from homes and businesses in urban areas is typically piped to wastewater treatment plants, where some pollutants and harmful microorganisms are removed before the treated wastewater effluent is disposed of or reused.

The city has updated its floodplain regulations to protect the public from flooding. This was in response to the National Weather Service study of historical rainfall called Atlas 14. This study shows that Central Texas is more likely to experience larger storms than previously thought.