Save the water: inside the city’s GoPurple program

Austin City Council approved some key funding elements to help boost Austin’s reclaimed water infrastructure and initiatives through GoPurple.

Industrial purple pipes outside.

These purple pipes hold the reclaimed water, potentially saving up to 16 million gallons of water per day.

Photo courtesy Austin Water

Sixteen million. That’s how many gallons of water per day Austin Water projects to save with the GoPurple program by 2040.

Austin City Council approved a host of code changes, program incentives, and funding systems for the GoPurple program to support water reuse projects last week. As part of the Water Forward initiative, the GoPurple program is meant to boost Austin’s infrastructure around using reclaimed water.

Behind Water Forward

After the seven-year drought that ended in 2016, Austin Water created a century-long plan to safeguard the city’s water supply through conservation, protection, and reuse programs. Water Forward was adopted by Austin City Council in 2018.

Water reuse is not only important for environmental reasons, Austin also has a financial incentive. If the city uses more than 201,000 acre-ft of water from the Colorado River for two years in a row, it would cost Austin around $10 million in annual fees, due to a 1999 agreement with the Lower Colorado River Authority.

Why purple?

In short, the water industry uses purple pipes to denote treated reclaimed water. This reclaimed water is for non-potable usage, like watering landscapes and flushing your toilets.

What will change?

Last week’s changes include an Austin City Council-approved $0.15 charge to businesses and residents per thousand gallons, which will equate to around $1.47 for the average Austin Water customer. However, customers who are interested in helping fund GoPurple can contribute more through voluntary Purple Choice or Purple Choice+ programs, which are expected to be implemented in November.

The extra capital will go toward water reclamation system upgrades and expansion.

Code changes made for GoPurple will mostly affect developments spanning 250,000+ sqft. Those projects, provided they fall within 500 feet of the City’s GoPurple infrastructure, will be required to connect to the purple pipes or install their own water reuse system. Read the full list of requirements.