Codes and Regulations

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.

In 2022, the Austin City Council requested updates to various environmental provisions in Austin’s Land Development Code. The first round of updates have been adopted while planning continues on a second round.

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.

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 went 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).

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

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.

The City of Austin's Stormwater Permit Program ensures compliance with state and federal regulatory requirements. The goal of the program is to reduce and prevent the discharge of pollutants into the city’s storm drain system and our creeks, lakes, and aquifers.

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.

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.

Although review activities are primarily the responsibility of the Development Services 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.