AUSTIN, TX - A new multi-million project was launched Tuesday to reclaim more of the wastewater that’s flushed away in Austin. Officials claim this is more than an environmental feel good story.
The pile of dirt used for a Tuesday morning ground breaking ceremony symbolizes the start of a new water line that will be dug into parts of downtown Austin.
"And by using this highly purified reclaimed water for non-potable uses Austin lessens the pressure on its drinking water supplies,” said Austin Mayor Steve Adler.
The reclaimed water will come from the Walnut Creek Treatment Plant in east Austin. While it’s not for drinking -- it’s clean and can be used for irrigating landscapes, parks -- as well as for cooling towers. It’s estimated that some air conditioning systems can consume as much as 50% of the drinkable water that flows into buildings. The plan for new $4.7 million reclaimed water line is to feed the state capitol complex, portions of UT and 4 county buildings along Guadeloupe
"We will save almost 12 million gallons of water a year, and the whole piping for it will be pay for itself in a little over 6 years and after that the taxpayers will be saving over a $150-thousand every year, just from these 4 buildings,” said Travis Co Commissioner Brigid Shea.
The goal is to eventually extend the line further downtown to serve the development that continues to change Austin's skyline.
Typically reclaimed water here in Austin is released back into the Colorado River. Austin Water does store a lot of Reclaimed Water and has 50-milies of reclaimed water lines. Reclaimed water is already being used at city golf courses and at ABIA. Last year the utility provided 1.2 billion gallons of reclaimed water to customers. The idea to do more is a direct result of the big drought we had, when the Highland Lakes, which supply much of Austin's drinking water, appeared to be drying up.
"I think this is a result of many, many, leaders saying that, we've got to think differently about water in the future and this is one of the things we are doing about that,” said Austin Water Director Greg Meszaros.
It will take almost 2 years to complete the new water line. There are no immediate plans to process reclaimed water into a quality that’s drinkable – but Austin Water officials say that could eventually become an option.