Water is critically important for our community. We drink it, we use it for washing clothes and dishes, we use it for growing our gardens and lawns, and it is a necessary component for many types of electricity production. Central Texas has experienced drought conditions for the past few years; while the rain events in early 2015 have helped the region, conservation, reuse, and smart water planning are still important actions for ensuring water accessibility in the future. Below are two indicators that reflect the City's conservation and water quality efforts.
Number of gallons of reclaimed water metered, sold, and used for beneficial purposes: Reclaimed water is less expensive to use or treat, and can be as little as one-third the price of drinking water. As of January 2017, the reclaimed water system has almost 51 miles of mains. The latest project will construct approximately 10,500 linear feet of reclaimed water main through the Capitol Complex in downtown Austin, with an estimated completion date of summer 2017.
Public drinking water quality: The chart to the right displays the quality level of treated drinking water as measured by actual Nephelometric Turbidity Units (NTUs) compared to the maximum allowed by regulators. The maximum level set by regulations from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality is (.3) but Austin Water Utility sets a more ambitious goal at (.1).
NATURAL SYSTEMS INDICATOR
Inflows to the Highland Lakes: Lakes Travis and Buchanan are the main water sources for the Austin area. The amount of water that flows into both lakes impacts the availability of water. The chart below shows lake inflows for 2012, 2013, and 2014, along with the historical average for lake inflows over the past 70 years.
AUSTIN WATER UTILITY: CONSERVATION PROGRAMS AND INITIATIVES
The City's water utility has various programs to achieve the long-term vision of sustainably managing and protecting our limited water resources. To learn more about the conservation programs, visit their website here. Additionally, Austin Water Utility has a robust initiative to build out a reclaimed water system in the city. Reclaimed water is recycled from the wastewater generated by homes and businesses and treated for virtually any use not requiring higher-quality drinking water, including irrigation, cooling towers, industrial uses, and toilet flushing. Using reclaimed water protects the drinking water supply, recycles water, and saves money.
For questions about these sustainability measures and indicators, please contact Lewis Leff, City of Austin Office of Sustainability: Lewis.Leff@austintexas.gov.