The Funders Network is committed to sharing the stories and strategies of our members, partners and others in the philanthropic sector working to create more sustainable, prosperous and equitable communities.

Today, we’re sharing a recent blog post from the Texas Living Waters Project about Austin’s effort to create a sustainable water future. The development creation and implementation of Austin’s ambitious water supply plan, known as ‘Water Forward’, was supported through the Urban Water Initiative, a collaborative effort by The JPB Foundation and the Pisces Foundation, both TFN members. TFN managed The JPB Foundation’s portion of this grantmaking initiative. Read the full blog post by Jennifer Walker, deputy director of the  Texas Coast and Water Program at National Wildlife Federation  here.

Six short years ago, Austin confronted a grim water future. The long dry tail of the 2011 drought combined with record population growth and increasingly concerning climate projections to paint an anxious picture of the city’s water supply. The Highland Lakes, the sole source of water for the city, were very low and facing an uncertain future.

Yet, thanks to an all-hands-on-deck lets-do-this effort, the city rallied from those bleak months, drawing on extensive community and expert feedback to put in place the pieces that would result in an ambitious water supply plan known as Water Forward which was adopted by City Council December 2018.

This fall, key elements of that plan are finally falling into place. The city council voted in late September to enact the first significant set of ordinances to implement Water Forward. Some are the first of their kind in Texas. The ordinances stipulate:

  1. New developments that are required to submit a site plan will be required to prepare a water budget that will inform water management decisions on the property;
  2. Austin’s large commercial developments will need to offset their non-potable water use with water generated onsite—thus preserving and extending our potable water supply. Initially, this program will be voluntary and the utility will provide incentives to encourage uptake. The program will eventually become mandatory.
  3. Large developments will be required to connect to the centralized purple pipe system if they are within 500 feet of the line.

These programs promise to create much needed water supplies for our rapidly-growing city through drawing on locally available water supplies and utilizing it close to the source.

The value of these initiatives cannot be overstated.

Read the full post to learn more about how Austin is ahead of the state and national curve in their proactive approach to managing their water supply.

Lake Austin” by G. Lamar is licensed under CC BY