2014 Blue Legacy Award ~ Municipal Winners


City of Austin Water Utilities

In 2011, the City of Austin initiated collaboration between the Austin Water Utility and multiple energy utilities to reduce water and energy costs for building upgrades for several groups including low income residents, multi-family residential owners and renters. The partnership also increases compliance with water and energy efficiency ordinances, provides customers with a one-stop-shop approach to utility efficiency programs, and uses program resources to reach a wider audience and overcome split incentives.

On the heels of success with the program, the City expanded the partnership in 2013 by launching the Home Efficiency Assistance Program (HEAP) with a goal to provide energy and water efficiency assessments, repairs and upgrades to low income residents. Customers whose income was not more than 200% above the federal income poverty level were eligible and priority was based on the application date and high energy or water use.  Additionally, the utilities launched the Small Business Outreach Program to incorporate local businesses into water and energy conservation strategies.

Through evaluations of each program, the City of Austin has seen success among its customers. The HEAP has funded home  improvements for over 750 low income customers and Austin Water contributed more than $50,000 in water conservation improvements which include low-flow showerheads, aerators, low-flush toilets and plumbing repairs. To date, the water savings from all the programs instituted by the City of Austin is estimated at 48,068 gallons per day with a cost savings of about $228,083.  The City of Austin has shown leadership by example in partnering their utilities with innovative water conservation strategies.

City of Round Rock

The City of Round Rock reacted to dry weather conditions throughout the last several years by engaging their citizens in several rain barrel sales to promote rainwater harvesting. Since 2009, the city has hosted three rain barrel sales at their Recycling Center with each barrel costing the customer $25. Staff with the city uses 55-gallon drums from the water plant and modifying them for $14 per barrel. Because of high interest in the program, the Environmental Supervisor with the City of Round Rock reached out to a company in Austin that generates plastic drums from a soap manufacturing process which are now incorporated into the program.

In October 2012, the City hosted their major one day rain barrel sale in partnership with Rain Water Innovations. The barrels are lightweight and compact enough to be transported in most vehicles. Advertisements through the City’s website, water bills, the press, and displays continued for six weeks prior to the event. Final counts revealed 396 Ivy barrels distributed to around 200 customers at the October 2012.The following sale in April 2013 distributed 291 Ivy barrels, 61 Moby barrels, and 26 100-gallon barrels to 240 people.

City of New Braunfels

The City of New Braunfels recognizes water conservation often starts with individual habit which led to the creation in 2006 of New Braunfel’s Utilities (NBU) Behavioral Modification Program. The program goals included reduction of water use, improving the public’s perception of water conservation, easing the strain on the Edward’s Aquifer, and extending water supply. To achieve their goals, NBU would focus on education, program outreach, interaction and increasing the community involvement.

The city took advantage of attendance at community events throughout the year by giving water conservation presentations, setting informational booths, and interacting with children in entertaining and educational opportunities. Additionally, the city built a mobile water display to illustrate the city’s water use made from 354 one gallon recycled milk jugs. Customer involvement centered on rebates for water conservation strategies including rain barrels and appliance upgrades. A landscape calendar contest focused the community through competition to create the most drought friendly yard while receiving a picture of the winners’ landscape in a calendar.

The City of New Braunfels has seen great success in its efforts to involve the community in water conservation efforts. Their displays are consistently requested at events throughout the city and state. Portions of their rebate program were discontinued because the market was saturated with customers taking advantage of the opportunity to conserve and the calendar contest was such a success, the city had to print additional copies to meet demand for sales.

Cinco Ranch Municipal Utility District

When creating its new master planned community in Katy, the Cinco Ranch Municipal Utility District (MUD) set out to pave the way in new technology and management practices in their region.  As an older master planned community, the MUD wanted to retrofit the irrigation system to not only be compliant with the Texas Commission of Environmental Quality regulations for using Type 1 water for irrigation but also make their system a water efficiency project.

Cinco Ranch MUD is currently converting about 20 percent of their public space and replacing existing spray heads with spray bodies which utilize higher theoretical efficiency. Additionally, the MUD is converting the property to a Central Control Irrigation System.

Cinco Ranch MUD has not stopped at a full retrofit of the property but continued the program through training both in the classroom and the field along with evaluations on those receiving the instruction. And lastly, the MUD will implement a new billing system using a water budget rate structure. If a customer uses more than actual plant/water needs for a month, additional fees will apply.

In addition to cost savings and water conservation, the Cinco Ranch MUD is seen as a leader in irrigation strategies in communities of its type.