the capital of Texas, home of the University of Texas and whose
unofficial motto is “Keep Austin Weird”, is the center of
the green movement in Texas. Host of the first North
America Rainwater Catchment conference and the first
Green Building program in the US, Austin is green and growing.
fast growing city located in the heart of Texas, Austin is blessed
with nearly 32 inches of annual rainfall. But the rain
comes in buckets, all at once and then nothing for days if
not weeks.With continued population growth projected
in Austin and surrounding communities, comes increasing demands
on the local water system, putting strains on the local aquifer
levels especially for the folks in areas not served by Austin
utilities. With continued growth projected the stress on the
water ecosystem will only increase.
Austin Energy Green Building Program started in 1991
and is now the world’s largest with over 200 local members.
it should be of no surprise that rainwater harvesting systems
and rain barrels are increasingly common in central Texas.
city’s recent one day Green
by Design Workshop was completely full as was the workshop
before it. The seminar was predominantly attended by Austin
residents, home owners from surrounding communities, and a few
builders and architects. Not
suurprisingly, water conservation is one of the key aspects
of the Green Building program.
Energy, owned by the citizens of Austin,houses the Green Building Program and in combination
with the city’s other conversation programs, Austin has one of the broadest conservation programs in the nation.
Green Builder: Austin's Peterson
Peterson, Environmental Program Coordinator at Austin Energy,
has been one of the driving forces behind the rainwater harvesting
movement in Austin.
became interested in rainwater harvesting systems in the early
1990’s when he attended a seminar given by a local long-time
water harvester, Dr. Mike McElveen, at an Austin hospital. In
his own words, “I was hooked.”
the time Peterson was running his own industrial sales company,
but he quickly became active in the community, attending other
seminars on Xeriscape and rainwater harvesting and then presenting
when other presenters were not available.
avocation eventually became his vocation, and he joinedthe City of Austin Water Conservation Program
in 1995 as Xeriscape Program Coordinator, supervising their
outdoor conservation efforts.
2000, he transferred to the Green Building Program, to
become the resident expert on landscaping, rainwater harvesting
and outdoor water conservation.
water just make cents,” according to Dick. The programs
barrel incentive program started in 2000 and since it’s inception
over 6,000 rain barrel
rebates or volume purchase discounts have been granted.
Dick advises local residents or water conservation as well as
giving local conservation seminars and hands on rainwater harvesting
seminars. He has also presented to clubs and municipalities
around the country on subjects he is very passionate about.
installing your system think ahead, storing rainwater is like
tools, you can never have too many!” Many folks think one barrel is enough, but once they see the difference
in their plants or taste the difference, they want to capture
more water.Make your
system easy to expand it will really pay off.
Peterson sees harvesting rainwater continuing to gain
interest in the Austin area:
free water once installed
better for the plants
good for the environment
just the smart thing to do”, concludes Peterson.
course, Peterson's zeal rolls over to his own home. He has installed
a pond at his house that is fed by rainwater. This pond is stocked
with goldfish and to make the system complete he uses the nutrient
rich water from the pond to fertilize his garden, yielding luscious
grapes, tomatoes, peppers and other organic vegetables (for more
on Peterson’s garden and system click here).
advises first timers to visit some of the local rainwater sites
to get some ideas of the types of barrels and tanks available.
Another option is to attend a local seminar or organize your
through the Green Building Program, is available to give presentations
to local organizations.He
has made presentations or directed hands-on workshops for several
national conferences, botanical societies and municipal organizations.
In most cases, these are on a contract basis and done on vacation
time, so advance booking is required. Contact him directly for
Don't take our word for it.
are some "green" Austin sites you should visit to
see the impact green thinking can have in the community:
·Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower
Center: 4801 La Crosse Ave., Austin 78739