One of the key drivers of the Water Forward Plan was the 2008-2016 drought, when inflows of water and combined storage volumes in Lakes Travis and Buchanan were at historic lows. The major water supply projects included in the plan are largely to augment Austin’s access to water during drought when core surface water supplies are limited.

The major water supply projects included in Water Forward were Aquifer Storage and Recovery, Indirect Potable Reuse, an Off-Channel Reservoir, and Brackish Groundwater Desalination.


Aquifer Storage and Recovery, also called ASR, is a water storage strategy in which water is stored in an aquifer during wetter periods and recovered at a later date. Storing water underground can improve drought preparedness in the same way storing water in a reservoir does, while eliminating the water loss due to evaporation that occurs in open above-ground reservoirs. To learn more about Austin’s ASR project, click on the ASR tab.

Indirect Potable Reuse, also called IPR, is included in Water Forward as an emergency water supply strategy for infrequent use during only the most severe drought situations. IPR would convey highly treated reclaimed water from a wastewater plant to Lady Bird Lake so it could be diverted for treatment to drinking water standards. The strategy is combined with the Capture Local Inflows to Lady Bird Lake strategy, which would use portions of the IPR infrastructure outside of severe drought conditions to capture local inflows from Barton Springs and other creeks. As included in Water Forward, these strategies are planned to be online by 2040.

Off-Channel Reservoir, or OCR, is a water storage strategy where a reservoir is constructed away from the main stem river and is filled by pumping water from the main river channel to the reservoir. This allows water to be stored during wetter times and used to supply drinking water during dry times. As included in Water Forward, this strategy will be online by 2070.

Brackish Groundwater Desalination is a strategy where salty groundwater is treated to drinking water standards. This strategy is a longer-term water supply strategy in Water Forward, with implementation by 2070.


What is ASR?

Aquifer Storage and Recovery, also called ASR, is a strategy in which water (such as potable or drinking water) is stored in an underground aquifer during wetter periods of rainfall and recovered for use during drier periods such as drought. Storing water underground avoids water loss due to evaporation that occurs in surface water storage.

ASR in Water Forward

One of the key drivers of Water Forward was to increase the resiliency of Austin’s water supply during drought and other emergency situations such as water quality upsets. To help meet water needs during those times, the Water Forward plan includes an ASR strategy to pipe treated drinking water from the City of Austin’s water distribution system to an ASR well field for injection and storage in the Carrizo-Wilcox Aquifer. Although the Carrizo-Wilcox was used to develop planning-level assumptions, a specific location for the ASR project has not yet been identified. Other aquifers will also be evaluated as part of ASR implementation.

During drier periods stored water would be recovered, treated, and piped back into the City’s water distribution system. By 2115, the Water Forward ASR strategy is projected to provide up to 90,000 acre-feet of water per year when needed.

ASR Implementation

Austin’s ASR project is currently in the first phase of implementation. In Phase 1, Austin Water is working to select a consultant team to help identify sites for an ASR pilot project(s). Once sites are selected, Austin Water will perform piloting prior to development of a full-scale ASR project. Public outreach and stakeholder engagement will be an important of the ASR project.

An illustration of the ASR implementation timeline is shown below. The implementation approach for ASR will be adapted as needed as more information is gathered.

ASR Resources

If you are interested in learning more about Austin’s ASR project or ASR in general, please check out the resources below. Additionally, you can contact us or sign up for the Water Forward mailing list to receive Water Forward updates, including updates about ASR.