100-year water plan reaches Austin City Council for first time

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Weeks after destructive upstream flooding sent Austin under a historic citywide boil water notice, city staff presented Austin City Council with a 100-year water plan that aims to reshape how the city thinks about water storage and consumption.

City Council approval of the Water Forward Plan in two weeks would mark the end of a nearly four-year effort by city staff to produce what one Austin Water official called the “most important water plan that’s been produced in the United States.”

The plan, which Community Impact Newspaper covered extensively in June, responds to claims by the city’s water experts that if Austin continues current methods of pulling water from the Colorado River, the city continues to grow at such a rapid clip—four million people by 2115—and problems associated with climate change persist, then Austin will not have enough water for its population.

Recommendations in the plan include investments in water storage techniques—aquifer storage, which stores water into an underground reservoir for the city to lean on during intense droughts—and a change in the city’s conservation culture that would employ broader methods and use of recycled water.

Mayor Steve Adler said the Water Forward Plan represents the most important work taking place in Austin. Adler initially highlighted the plan during his February State of the City address, however, news and updates on the plan remained slim until the Nov. 13 work session.

The timing is coincidental as the city continues its post-mortem examination of the late-October boil water notice. During that water emergency, assistant director of Austin Water Daryl Slusher said pieces of the Water Forward Plan could get pushed forward more quickly than originally planned.

Austin City Council is poised to approve the 100-year water plan on Thursday, Nov. 29. Upon City Council approval, Austin Water director Greg Meszaros said a robust public input process would begin as the city tries to draft policies related to recycled water and infrastructure in new developments.

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Christopher Neely
Christopher Neely is Community Impact's Austin City Hall reporter. A New Jersey native, Christopher moved to Austin in 2016 following two years of community reporting along the Jersey Shore. His bylines have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Baltimore Sun and USA Today. He is a graduate of the University of Maryland's Philip Merrill College of Journalism.
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