The City of Austin 2017

State of Our Environment Report

Prepared for
City Council
Steve Adler
Council Members
Ora Houston, District 1
Delia Garza, District 2
Sabino “Pio” Renteria, District 3
Gregario “Greg” Casar, District 4
Ann Kitchen, District 5
Jimmy Flannigan, District 6
Leslie Pool, District 7
Ellen Troxclair, District 8
Kathie Tovo, District 9
Alison Alter, District 10
City Manager
Spencer Cronk

 Prepared by
Chuck Lesniak, Environmental Officer,
Watershed Protection Department
April 2018
With special thanks to the following people for their help in creating this report:
Watershed Protection Department
Andrea Bates
Brent Bellinger
Nathan Bendik
Mary Love Bigony
Kaela Champlin
Andrew Clamann
Sharon Cooper
Ana Gonzales
Ryan Hebrink
Aaron Hicks
Scott Hiers
Chris Herrington
Liz Johnston
David Johns
Patrick Kelly
Mike Kelly
Chuck Lesniak
Thain Maurer
Mike Personett
Donelle Robinson
Mateo Scoggins
Katie Sternberg
Edith Valle
John Watkins 
Jessica Wilson
Erin Wood
Saj Zappitello
Development Services Department
Christopher Dolph
Michael Embesi
Leah Haynie
Emily King
Keith Mars
Office of Sustainability
Lucia Athens
Zach Baumer
Cavan Merski
Amy Petri
Austin Transportation Department
Pharr Andrews
Cari Buetow
Austin Water
Nico Hauwert
Sherri Kuhl
Cait McCann
Lisa O’Donnell
Kevin Thuesen
Audrey Stewart
Parks & Recreation Department
Patrick Byer
LeeAnn Ishcomer
Cynthia Klemmer
Karen Knight
Betty Pu
Randy Scott
Kirsten Schneider
Amanda Ross
Margaret Russell


Welcome to the State of Our Environment report for 2017. Usually in my introduction, I talk about things you’ll see later in this annual report, but this year I want to highlight something that isn’t elsewhere in the report, CodeNEXT. As you may or may not know, CodeNEXT is a multi-year effort to rewrite Austin’s Land Development Code. Those regulations are key in protecting our environment from the impacts of development and Austin has long been considered a national leader in balancing development and environmental protection.
CodeNEXT will go to the City Council for approval later in 2018. Much of the water quality, tree, and drainage regulations will remain unchanged, but there are two key proposals that I would like to highlight. First, there is a new emphasis on requiring “green” stormwater infrastructure (GSI). GSI uses natural systems (soil and plants) to remove pollutants from stormwater runoff from development. In addition to removing pollutants, it can also reduce water needed to irrigate landscape and GSI in the form of rain gardens that can be an amenity for new development. If the proposal is approved, I hope to see lots of rain gardens and vegetated filter strips around Austin in the coming years.
The second significant change proposed is in how runoff from development is managed to reduce the risk of flooding caused by development. As our city redevelops, we currently don’t require old development to fix flooding caused by old, outdated drainage systems. The new proposal would require redeveloped property to contribute its “fair share” to address flooding that it may be contributing to.
In my opinion, these can provide significant benefits as our community continues to work to protect our environment and our residents from the impacts of new and old development, while respecting and understanding the need for a thriving, but affordable local economy. Take a look through the rest of our annual report and I hope you enjoy what your city government is doing to protect our environment. Click on a link or send us an e-mail if you would like to learn more!
Chuck Lesniak—Environmental Officer, Watershed Protection Department