The City of Austin, Texas is facing an increasingly uncertain water future—from declining water supplies and more intense droughts to periodic flooding and water quality impairments. Several citywide planning efforts seek to address these challenges, including the Water Forward Plan, a 100-year plan to ensure adequate water supplies for a growing city; a Climate Adaptation Plan produced by the Office of Sustainability; and a Watershed Protection Master Plan to address flooding, erosion, and water quality impairments in the city.
Over the past year, researchers at the Pacific Institute collaborated with the National Wildlife Federation and Texas Water Trade, as well as city staff in Austin, to understand the multiple benefits provided by green stormwater infrastructure (GSI) in Austin. Using the Pacific Institute’s Multi-Benefit Framework, the authors identified the potential benefits of rainwater capture in Austin, quantified several project benefits, and examined how these benefits could be used to develop partnerships with additional city departments and encourage residents to install rainwater capture systems.
In this report, the authors describe their work to engage with stakeholders and identify, evaluate, and communicate co-benefits of rainwater capture in Austin, using the Rain Catcher Pilot Program (RCPP) as an example. The purpose of this report is to provide city staff in Austin and throughout the United States with a template for understanding the benefits provided by water-related projects and how to mitigate potential trade-offs. In addition, the authors hope the report helps Austin’s water managers determine the scalability of a local rainwater capture program and supports community groups and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in advocating for sustainable water management projects.