Austin Water’s GoPurple water reuse program

What GoPurple means for developers and owners of large-scale developments

As of April 1, 2024, the city of Austin, TX will see new code changes and incentives go into effect as part of Austin Water’s GoPurple program. These changes are part of the city’s Water Forward strategy adopted in 2018 to help with a 100-year plan for water resiliency. The plan supports the expansion of a centralized reclaimed water piping system, while also mandating that new large-scale developments connect to centralized reclaimed water or integrate onsite water reuse systems. By 2040, these new city code changes (chapter 15-13) are expected to save Austin around 16 million gallons of potable water per day.

As with most new regulations, there may be some questions about how these changes apply to your upcoming development. Along with Austin Water’s many resources and guidebook, we hope to break down the nuance so you can easily identify next steps.

How GoPurple may affect your development

The new regulations mandate connecting to centralized reclaimed water or installing an onsite water reuse systems for most new commercial, multifamily, and mixed-use development projects with 250,000 square feet or more of gross floor area. Projects exempt from this requirement include qualified affordable housing and developments that do not plan to use Austin Water as a utility provider. Projects that are under the 250,000 square foot threshold may choose to voluntarily install onsite water reuse systems to take advantage of incentives including project funding, expedited permit review, and reduced meter fees.

It’s important to review a few terms as they are defined by Austin Water.

  • Large development project: the construction of one (or more) multifamily, mixed use, or commercial buildings on one or more parcels in accordance with a phased plan or approved site plan, with a total gross floor area for the building(s) of 250,000 square feet or more.
    • This includes any high-rise, mid-rise, multifamily, or mixed-use building for use as an office, hotel, warehouse, industrial, civic, or municipal campus.
  • Commercial building: a building that is developed for industry, commerce, trade, recreation, business, or municipal, institutional, or civic use.
  • Mixed-use building: a building developed for any combination of commercial and multifamily building uses.
  • Multifamily building: a building that contains five or more residential housing units.

The GoPurple program contains several layers to determine the best option for your specific development. To help digest these, we’ve created a decision tree with high level information regarding each option.  While this may seem overwhelming, answering a few quick ‘yes’ or ‘no’ questions about your project will lead you to the options available. You will need to know your project’s proximity to the city’s reclaimed water system. This can be estimated using the maps on Austin Water’s reclaimed water system site or by using Austin Water’s Records access application, which is an online GIS viewer accessible by request.

Austin Water's GoPurple decision Tree by Epic Cleantec

Fee in lieu option

Certain projects may be eligible to pay a fee in lieu of installing an onsite water reuse system. This is illustrated in Option 2 of the “yes” path in the graphic above. To be eligible for this option, projects must:

  • Contain a multifamily component
  • Be more than 500 ft from the city’s reclaimed water main
  • Make ready for reclaimed water by installing dedicated meters and distributed plumbing to all required non-potable fixtures, providing adequate physical separation and backflow prevention between potable and non-potable water systems, etc.

These projects are not eligible for any grants or incentives, and the fee is calculated by the pipe diameter (in inches) x cost per inch-foot (per the city’s fee schedule) x 500 linear feet. Current fees may be estimated as follows:

Fees will be updated annually based on new cost of construction for reclaimed mains.

Incentive options for onsite water reuse systems

There are several incentives projects can take advantage of depending on size, location, and implementation of reuse systems.

Pilot Incentive – up to $500,000 per project: pilot incentives are available to projects that choose to implement onsite water reuse systems voluntarily and projects that implement onsite water reuse systems which save more than code minimum (“Above and Beyond”). The following projects would qualify for up to $500,000 in pilot incentives:

  • Projects under 250,000 square feet that implement any kind of onsite water reuse
  • Projects 250,000 square feet or greater that implement greywater or blackwater reuse

Expedited Building Permit Review – up to $36,000 per project: fees associated with expedited building permit review will be reimbursed by Austin Water for all projects implementing onsite water reuse.

Capacity Charge Adjustments – up to $7,528 per year per project: ongoing capacity charge fees, which are typically part of a development’s water & sewer bills, will be reduced to reflect a project’s reduction in potable water use. Projects that implement onsite reuse and continue to pass annual inspections are eligible for this incentive.

PACE Program Assistance – up to the water reuse project’s cost: Austin Water will help with water savings and project cost documentation to facilitate PACE financing. Only private building owners are eligible for project financing through PACE loans.

There are also incentives available for projects that participate in the reclaimed connection program. All projects are eligible for PACE program financing assistance.

GoPurple incentives are funded by a $0.15 per thousand gallons increase in the Community Benefit Charge on retail customers’ bills. This is expected to raise the average residential customer’s bill by $1.47 per month and will generate around $10 million per year to help fund these incentives.

What to expect during the onsite water reuse permitting process

The permitting process for onsite water reuse systems has been streamlined by Austin Water to enable projects to move through this process with minimal impact to building permitting. Involving an onsite water reuse provider in your project early is advisable as the permitting process includes producing a water balance and submitting a PE stamped engineering report which contains details on treatment technologies, log reduction of pathogens, and fail-safe controls. Projects with more than one building require more documentation, and projects electing to implement blackwater systems will require additional permitting through TCEQ.

It is important to note that the Austin Water permitting process illustrated below is typically completed in parallel with building permitting, and the permit issued at the end of this process is an Operating Permit.

timeline visual of permitting process

Epic Cleantec is well versed in the permitting process and aims to simplify the project delivery process. We help project stakeholders navigate the regulatory landscape by handling all permitting discussions and submittals and will provide guidance on applicable incentives. 

If you’d like more information on the financial implication of GoPurple, check out our Part II post as we break down the onsite reuse cost considerations for two upcoming Austin developments and how GoPurple will impact those projects. 

The move toward city-wide adoption of recycled water will benefit those living in Austin for decades to come. If you have questions about the new GoPurple program and how it may impact your upcoming project, schedule a meeting with our local team today.


Let’s discuss your upcoming project. Connect with Epic Cleantec!

Request a Free Assessment

Share on Social Media