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. Please review updated information on the provided slide deck and take the new survey to provide feedback

Update October 2022:

Austin Water Conservation staff has spent the last year looking at landscape and irrigation requirements across Texas and the United States, hosting public and stakeholder meetings and talking with contractors and industry experts. Using the gathered information and results from an initial public survey, Austin Water identified a core set of potential water conservation actions for landscapes of new residential homes and new irrigation systems. Some of these potential actions, such as soil depth and composition requirements, are already required in code so staff has begun the process of working with other city departments on how to better enforce already existing ordinances. Potential new requirements are presented on this page with estimated cost and annual water saving percentages.



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 Lower Colorado River Authority 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








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. Please review updated information on the provided slide deck and take the new survey to provide feedback

Update October 2022:

Austin Water Conservation staff has spent the last year looking at landscape and irrigation requirements across Texas and the United States, hosting public and stakeholder meetings and talking with contractors and industry experts. Using the gathered information and results from an initial public survey, Austin Water identified a core set of potential water conservation actions for landscapes of new residential homes and new irrigation systems. Some of these potential actions, such as soil depth and composition requirements, are already required in code so staff has begun the process of working with other city departments on how to better enforce already existing ordinances. Potential new requirements are presented on this page with estimated cost and annual water saving percentages.



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 Lower Colorado River Authority 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








  • Austin Water was directed by Austin City Council to create a new landscape ordinance for newly constructed, single-family homes. After a series of public and stakeholder meetings, Austin Water has identified several potential new measures to include in the ordinance. At this time, we are asking the public to provide feedback on these identified options to help us better understand what the Austin community wants included in the final ordinance. Please complete this brief survey to let us know which options you feel should or should not be included in the new ordinance for newly-constructed single-family homes. The estimated costs and water savings provided are for each independent option. Completing multiple options on one site can affect both cost and water savings.

    Please note that a few ideas discussed in the public meetings are already required through existing requirements, and therefore have not been included in this survey. For example, the State of Texas currently requires irrigation systems to be inspected and the City of Austin requires that new builds have 6 inches of de-compacted topsoil containing 20% compost and for mulch beds to be at least 2-3 inches deep.

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Page last updated: 18 Oct 2022, 02:18 PM