REGULATION: Potential New Water Utility Requirements being Formulated for Council Consideration this Fall


REGULATION: Potential New Water Utility Requirements being Formulated for Council Consideration this Fall

As reported previously here, the City of Austin is exploring potential requirements that would mandate that 

  1. New developments submit water balance applications;

  2. Developments over 250,000 square feet use alternative and onsite waters to meet indoor and outdoor non-potable water demands. 

The timeline is particularly quick as City staff is working to develop proposed ordinance language by this fall.

While these kinds of strategies were included in Austin Water’s 100-year water plan Water Forward (approved last fall), ordinance adoption was accelerated by the City Council in May when they directed that mandatory codification and implementation be considered this year as part of the Land Development Code revision process.

Examples of the mandatory alternative water systems being considered are rainwater, graywater, stormwater, and condensate water. (Tapping into the City’s reclaimed water system does not appear to be a path to compliance under this proposal, presumably because that water would not be not produced/collected onsite.)  

The water balance application would require information that staff would use to estimate projected water demand and usage, such as a building’s proposed size, occupancy and uses/functions (retail, restaurant, etc.). It is not clear yet whether that information would be used in the future to restrict water usage or charge variable rates, or if it would only be used for planning purposes.  

Austin Water conducted a workshop about the issue on June 25 and another is scheduled for July 23 (details below). 

Most of the June workshop centered on presentations about alternative water systems. Cost information was not available however, and detailed costs associated with one aspect of these systems, dual-plumbing, may not be available until the end of this year, when a related Austin Water study is estimated to be complete.

Towards the end of the workshop, an overview of the potential requirements was provided. Below are the two high-level concepts staff presented:


The majority of attendees still present at the end of the workshop expressed support for delaying mandatory installation and usage of these systems. Other aspects directed by Council such as “landscape transformation” were not addressed. 

There are still a lot of questions and issues to be discussed, and the Bingham Group will be monitoring this proposal and its potential impact on development and affordability in Austin. 

If you want to learn more, email us at

Our team has experience in land use regulations, as well as in water conservation policy. 

//Tina Bui, Senior Consultant


Alternative Onsite Water Use Workshop #2 hosted by Austin Water 

  • July 23, 2019

  • 8:00am – 12:00 pm

  • Waller Creek Center, 625 East 10th Street, Austin, TX 78701 – Room 104

  • RSVP via Eventbrite

  • Per Austin Water, stakeholders and city staff will take model developments through the draft regulatory framework to test the feasibility and effectiveness of potential approaches.


The Bingham Group, LLC is an Austin (TX) based full service consulting firm representing and advising clients on government affairs, public affairs, land use and procurement matters. The firm is certified MBE/HUB/DBE.

To learn more about Bingham Group and our team, visit:

Following Bingham Group at: