Austin Water is launching a new GoPurple program to increase use of reclaimed water in and around Austin to make water usage more sustainable. Austin City Council approved key elements of the program on March 7, 2024, to conserve water, mitigate the impacts of the current drought conditions, and follow the Water Forward 100-Year plan. This will include installing Onsite Water Reuse Systems (OWRS) and connecting to the city's reclaimed water system to use for non-drinking water purposes such as irrigation, flushing toilets, and cooling towers.

The program aims to support various measures like cost-sharing, grants, and other incentives. It is funded through a new Community Benefit Charge (CBC) and a voluntary rate dedicated to water reuse. The CBC fee, set at $0.15 per thousand gallons, is expected to generate about $10 million yearly, while increasing an average residential customer's bill by $1.47 per month. However, those in the Customer Assistance Program (CAP) won't be affected by the CBC fee. Additionally, affordable housing projects meeting specific criteria may be exempted from the expanded requirements.

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A brief pipeline of GoPurple

Wastewater that leaves homes and businesses is treated at our facilities and afterwards can be recycled and reused for many purposes. By 2040 onsite water reuse will save an estimated 6 million gallons of potable water per day. Expanding reclaimed will save 10 million gallons per day. GoPurple provides affordability strategies that enable new development projects to enhance water sustainability for our community. Learn more about them below! It will be funded by a combination of fees and rates that will provide with up to $10 million yearly.

Background
16 million gallons saved daily.

 

In the mid-1990s, Austin Water began constructing a centralized reclaimed water system to supply customers with reclaimed water for irrigation, cooling towers, and non-drinking water uses through the "purple pipe" system. Facing a significant drought from 2008 to 2016, AW created Water Forward, a 100-year plan for a sustainable water future, emphasizing reuse, conservation, and protection of Austin’s water supply. The plan advocates expanding the centralized reclaimed system for toilet flushing, irrigation, and other non-drinking water uses and requiring new developments to incorporate onsite water reuse systems. Council adopted Water Forward in 2018.

The reuse strategies proposed as part of GoPurple will significantly conserve water. By 2040, onsite water reuse is estimated to save six million gallons of potable water daily, and expanding reclaimed water use will save an additional 10 million gallons daily, for a combined 16 million gallons saved daily. In line with a 1999 agreement with the Lower Colorado River Authority, the city incurs annual payments if water use exceeds 201,000 acre-feet for two consecutive years. Despite projections suggesting the threshold could be reached as early as 2015, community water conservation efforts have delayed the trigger by up to eight years, resulting in an estimated annual cost savings of $10 million.

Reuse Requirements

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Development

Current Requirements (Effective 12/01/2021)

Proposed Requirements (Effective 04/01/2024)

Small (<250,000 square feet)
  • Water Benchmarking
  • Connect to centralized reclaimed water within 250 feet
  • No change

Large (≥250,000 square feet)

without a multifamily component

  • Water Benchmarking
  • Connect to centralized reclaimed water within 500 feet
  • Water Benchmarking
  • Connect to centralized reclaimed water within 500 feet

OR

  • Install an onsite water reuse system

Large (≥250,000 square feet)

with a multifamily component

Excludes projects with qualified affordable housing

  • Water Benchmarking
  • Connect to centralized reclaimed water within 250 feet
  • Water Benchmarking
  • Connect to centralized reclaimed water within 500 feet

OR

  • Install an onsite water reuse system

OR

  • Install dual plumbing, make ready to connect to centralized reclaimed water, and pay a fee to support reclaimed system expansion, for developments greater than 500 feet from centralized reclaimed water

Learn more about Obtaining Reclaimed Water for development projects.

Affordability Strategy

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Reclaimed Incentives

Development Type

Distance to Centralized Reclaimed Water

Cost Sharing

AW Funded Expedited Building Permit Review

Assistance with PACE Program

Incentive Amount   Up to $500,000 per project Up to $36,000 per project Up to cost of energy/water efficiency project
Small (<250,000 square feet) Less than 250 feet Developer Pay 100% of first 250 feet No Yes
251-500 feet AW Pays 100% of 251-500 feet Yes Yes
More than 500 feet AW evaluates projects case-by-case and brings customer-specific agreements to City Council Yes Yes
Large (≥250,000 square feet) without multifamily Less than 250 feet Developer Pay 100% of first 250 feet No Yes
251-500 feet AW Pays 50% of 251-500 feet Yes Yes
More than 500 feet AW evaluates projects case-by-case and brings customer-specific agreements to City Council Yes Yes
Large (≥250,000 square
feet) with multifamily
component
Less than 250 Feet Developer Pays 100%
of first 250 Feet
No Yes
251-500 Feet AW Pays 50% of 251-500 Feet Yes Yes
More Than 500 Feet AW evaluates projects case-by-case
and brings customer-specific agreements to City Council
Yes Yes
Large (≥250,000 square feet) with multifamily - Excludes projects with qualified affordable housing Less than 250 feet AW Pays 100% of first 250 feet Yes Yes
251-500 feet AW Pays 100% of 251-500 feet Yes Yes
More than 500 feet AW evaluates projects case-by=case and brings customer specific agreements to City Council Yes Yes

On Site Water Incentives

Development Type

Pilot Incentives Eligibility

Eligibility for Capacity Charge Adjustments

AW Funded Expedited Building Permit Review

Assistance with PACE Program

Incentive Amount Up to $500,000 per project Up to $7,528 per year per project Up to $36,000 per project Up to cost of energy/water efficiency project
Small (less than 250,000 square feet) Yes, for Voluntary OWRS Yes, for OWRS that Pass Annual Inspections Yes Yes
Large (≥250,000 square feet) without multifamily Yes, if meets program criteria for Above and Beyond Project Yes, for OWRS that Pass Annual Inspections Yes Yes
Large (≥250,000 square feet) with multifamily Yes, if meets program criteria for Above and Beyond Project Yes, for OWRS that Pass Annual Inspections Yes Yes
Large (≥250,000 square feet) with multifamily - Excludes projects with qualified affordable housing Yes, for Voluntary OWRS Yes, for OWRS that Pass Annual Inspections Yes Yes

Development Incentives

Incentives for developments that Dual Plumb buildings make ready to connect to Centralized Reclaimed and pay fee* in lieu of OWRS.

Development Type

Pilot Incentives for OWRS

Eligibility for Capacity Charge Adjustments for OWRS

Cost Sharing for Reclaimed Connections

AW Funded Expedited Building Permit Review

Assistance with Pace Program

Incentive Amount Not Applicable Not Applicable Not Applicable Up to $36,000 per project Up to cost of energy/water efficiency project
Large (≥250,000 square feet) with multifamily Not Applicable Not Applicable Not Applicable No Yes

*Fee will be equivalent to the cost to install 500 feet of reclaimed pipeline.

Funding Sources
GoPurple Funding Mechanism Estimate of Impact Estimated Implementation Date

Community Benefit Charge (CBC) (Fees)

Add an additional $0.15 per thousand gallons to AW’s CBC to fund reclaimed water system expansion and onsite reuse programs

$10 million per year April 1

Purple Choice and Purple Choice Plus (Rates)

Voluntary rate program for AW residential and commercial customers to fund reclaimed system expansion and programs

TBD November 1

Excess Usage Fees (Fees)

Fees applied when potable water allotments from Water Benchmarking are exceeded

TBD 2025