Over the past few years Austinites have slowly watched our lake levels dwindle, our creeks run dry(er) and our civic leaders impose restrictions on the amount of water we use and where we use it. While this is a good and necessary thing, it may also bring frustration and a sense of urgency to our everyday lives.
The citizens of Austin don't need census data to see evidence of our growth. They need only to open their eyes on any given day to see change before them. This awareness of our ever changing landscape helps us be extra mindful of our duties to conserve and protect our most basic, life-giving resource.
We are a lucky bunch to live in a city with such a concerned population. For their part, The City of Austin does us a great service by providing the necessary tools to help us do our part. Here are some of those tools.
City of Austin Water Conservation Programs
The Austin Water Conservation website via The Austin City Connection is our one-stop-shop for all the city's programs. The site has links to program information and rebate forms.
Free Toilet Replacement Program
As of July 31, 2009 the free aspect of the program has been suspended due to budget woes and the program's high turnout. The City council will decide soon whether to continue the program in the future. In the meantime however, the rebate program is still in tact. For pre-1996 toilets, the city will provide a $200 rebate. $50 rebates are also available for replacing 1.6 gpf toilets with HET's, as well as installing HET's in all new construction projects. Click here for the rebate applications.
Rainwater Harvesting/Rainbarrel Rebate Program
The city will also pay $500 towards a larger capacity rainwater harvesting system (300 gallons). Applicants must be approved before purchasing the materials: Click here for program guidelines and application. For smaller systems, the city will rebate an applicant $30 for the purchase of rainbarrels of 75 gallons or more. Users are also eligible with the purchase of two smaller barrels equaling 75 gallons. Purchasers must sign an agreement to use the barrels within the Austin Water Utility for at least 5 years. Click here for the rainbarrel rebate application.
High Efficiency Washer Rebates
Worth mentioning briefly is the city's program to rebate the purchase of new high efficiency clothes washers and hot water heaters ($100 water rebate and $50 energy rebate). Fortunately this requires little work from the buyer, save walking into a store and picking out a unit. The purveyors of the appliances will provide all necessary paperwork and explain in full how the process works. The customer need only sit back and wait for a check in the mail.
Unfortunately at the moment, the city does not provide incentives for water conserving landscaping practices. Hopefully our concern for water conservation and our love of Central Texas Ecology is enough incentive to tear up our water greedy Saint Augustine lawns and replace it with native grasses and rock gardens. Native American Seed, located in Junction Texas, provides abundant information on native species as well as native grass and wildflower seed and seed mixes.
These programs speak volumes of Austin's commitment to water conservation. Programs themselves don't work alone however. Without the support of a concerned citizenry our watershed will continue to dwindle. It is up to each one of us to do our part.