Irrigation and Landscape Ordinance for New Single-Family Residential Developments

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About the Future Ordinance:

Austin Water is asking for public input to help meet Austin’s growing water needs and prepare for impacts from our changing climate. Based on your input, we will create an Irrigation and Landscape Ordinance for new single-family residences that will set requirements for conserving water in irrigation systems and landscapes.



Why we are focusing on new Residential Landscapes and Irrigation:

Did you know that landscape irrigation accounts for 32% of all residential water use (from single-family homes) in Austin? That's a lot! It's also a bit of a problem because although Austin is not under an immediate threat of running out of water, two main issues are prompting city leaderships to ensure we’re more prepared for the future…

Climate Change:

Studies show that as time goes on, Austin will likely see longer and deeper periods of drought, potentially impacting our water supply.

Rising Population:

Austin’s population is expected to keep growing, potentially increasing the demand on our water resources.

Waterwise landscaping


Project Background:

After a drought (that lasted from 2008-2016) exposed these vulnerabilities in our water system and made real the threat of climate change, city leaders got together and created Water Forward; a plan to guide Austin's water future for the next 100 years. It was written by a team of Austin residents and city staffers and was adopted in 2018.

Its recommendations are focused along a few key principles-increasing our water supply, reducing demand for water, and expanding water reuse.

One of the Water Forward recommendations aimed at reducing our water use is an Irrigation and Landscape Ordinance for new residential single-family properties.

Austin has actually had a landscape ordinance for commercial and multi0family properties since 1979, but we’ve never had one for single-family homes.

The idea behind an ordinance like this is to set some sort of requirement for conserving water in irrigation systems and landscapes. In other words, reduce the amount of water people use on their lawns. An ordinance is just a fancy name for a city rule.

The Irrigation and Landscape Ordinance

This new ordinance is still in the early stages of development and Austin Water wants YOU to help decide what goes into it. Key questions that still need to be decided include:

  • Should only certain types of native or adapted plants/grassed be allowed?
  • Should we limit the amount of lawn grass?
  • How do we balance affordability with water conservation efforts?
  • Should we limit the size of automatic irrigation systems?

This ordinance will only apply to new homes.

Concerned that water friendly landscaping means you can have a nice looking lawn? Don’t worry! There are actually lots of clever ways to reduce water use, including using mulch to prevent water loss through evaporation and changing irrigations heads to drip nozzles.

Why this matters:

Creating an ordinance like this will help to meet two key goals from Water Forward that will impact us all:

  1. Help conserve Austin’s water supply.
  2. Reduce peak day water use which generally occurs in the summer months.

Why does that matter? Obviously we all need Austin to have a consistent water supply but also by reducing our water use, we delay hitting triggers in our contract with LCRA that will raise our water rates once we start using more water. In other words, this ordinance could help us all save money on our water bill.

Low water use grass with waterwise garden
Waterwise landscape









Our Process:

Austin Water’s Conservation staff looked at landscape and irrigation requirements in cities across Texas, the United States, and internationally. Join Austin Water’s Conservation staff at public meetings to provide your input about what to include in the ordinance and provide comments here on SpeakUp Austin and in surveys to help us understand community priorities. We will use this page to ask and answer questions and provide updates.

Based on your feedback and input, Austin Water staff will draft the ordinance and share it with the public for more feedback and refine it, based on what we hear from you. Staff will also conduct an affordability impact study before presenting a final version to various Boards and Commissions for feedback before sending it to City Council for approval in 2023.

About the Future Ordinance:

Austin Water is asking for public input to help meet Austin’s growing water needs and prepare for impacts from our changing climate. Based on your input, we will create an Irrigation and Landscape Ordinance for new single-family residences that will set requirements for conserving water in irrigation systems and landscapes.



Why we are focusing on new Residential Landscapes and Irrigation:

Did you know that landscape irrigation accounts for 32% of all residential water use (from single-family homes) in Austin? That's a lot! It's also a bit of a problem because although Austin is not under an immediate threat of running out of water, two main issues are prompting city leaderships to ensure we’re more prepared for the future…

Climate Change:

Studies show that as time goes on, Austin will likely see longer and deeper periods of drought, potentially impacting our water supply.

Rising Population:

Austin’s population is expected to keep growing, potentially increasing the demand on our water resources.

Waterwise landscaping


Project Background:

After a drought (that lasted from 2008-2016) exposed these vulnerabilities in our water system and made real the threat of climate change, city leaders got together and created Water Forward; a plan to guide Austin's water future for the next 100 years. It was written by a team of Austin residents and city staffers and was adopted in 2018.

Its recommendations are focused along a few key principles-increasing our water supply, reducing demand for water, and expanding water reuse.

One of the Water Forward recommendations aimed at reducing our water use is an Irrigation and Landscape Ordinance for new residential single-family properties.

Austin has actually had a landscape ordinance for commercial and multi0family properties since 1979, but we’ve never had one for single-family homes.

The idea behind an ordinance like this is to set some sort of requirement for conserving water in irrigation systems and landscapes. In other words, reduce the amount of water people use on their lawns. An ordinance is just a fancy name for a city rule.

The Irrigation and Landscape Ordinance

This new ordinance is still in the early stages of development and Austin Water wants YOU to help decide what goes into it. Key questions that still need to be decided include:

  • Should only certain types of native or adapted plants/grassed be allowed?
  • Should we limit the amount of lawn grass?
  • How do we balance affordability with water conservation efforts?
  • Should we limit the size of automatic irrigation systems?

This ordinance will only apply to new homes.

Concerned that water friendly landscaping means you can have a nice looking lawn? Don’t worry! There are actually lots of clever ways to reduce water use, including using mulch to prevent water loss through evaporation and changing irrigations heads to drip nozzles.

Why this matters:

Creating an ordinance like this will help to meet two key goals from Water Forward that will impact us all:

  1. Help conserve Austin’s water supply.
  2. Reduce peak day water use which generally occurs in the summer months.

Why does that matter? Obviously we all need Austin to have a consistent water supply but also by reducing our water use, we delay hitting triggers in our contract with LCRA that will raise our water rates once we start using more water. In other words, this ordinance could help us all save money on our water bill.

Low water use grass with waterwise garden
Waterwise landscape









Our Process:

Austin Water’s Conservation staff looked at landscape and irrigation requirements in cities across Texas, the United States, and internationally. Join Austin Water’s Conservation staff at public meetings to provide your input about what to include in the ordinance and provide comments here on SpeakUp Austin and in surveys to help us understand community priorities. We will use this page to ask and answer questions and provide updates.

Based on your feedback and input, Austin Water staff will draft the ordinance and share it with the public for more feedback and refine it, based on what we hear from you. Staff will also conduct an affordability impact study before presenting a final version to various Boards and Commissions for feedback before sending it to City Council for approval in 2023.

Discussions: All (1) Open (1)
  • Provide Input

    5 months ago
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    How to provide feedback:

    1: Read the background and description of the Irrigation and Landscape Ordinance on this page.

    2: Take this survey to let us know your thoughts on the plan, and what strategies you'd like us to prioritize. 

    3: Attend a community meeting if possible.

    4: Leave any other general comments or feedback about the plan using this forum. 

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Page last updated: 17 Jun 2022, 02:53 PM