“Reclaimed” water is wastewater that will be treated to the point that businesses and residences can use it to water their lawns, fill cooling towers, and use for all purposes other than for drinking and bathing.
Austin's Water Reclamation Initiative is one of the largest in the country and saves 1.2 billion gallons of drinking water a year. The reclaimed water serves as a source that won’t come at the expense of treating water from the Lower Colorado River, and take a significant amount of stress off the city’s main sources of water, lakes Buchanan and Travis. Since wastewater is treated whether it’s reused or cycled back into the Lower Colorado River, the city does not pay more to create and use reclaimed water.
Austin now has 47.2 miles of a separate pipe system for reclaimed water, nicknamed “purple pipes” since they are painted to be distinguished from potable (drinkable) water. Reclaimed water is mainly used for commercial purposes by the University of Texas, parts of the Mueller subdivision, Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, and the city’s golf courses. The next phase will run from UT through the downtown area, under Lady Bird Lake, and into South Austin. Although, residential areas will not be able to access the reclaimed water since there will not be smaller offshoot pipes running through residential neighborhoods. The city’s 25 year plan arranged for a total of 168.1 miles of purple pipes in Austin, complete with tanks, pumps, and lift stations. Learn more in the video below.