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Where does your water come from? For some around Austin, the answer is MUD.

Foreground: A sign displaying rules for the Brushy Creek Municipal Utility District's Cat Hollow Park. Background: Children play on a swing set.
Kailey Hunt
KUT News
It's not uncommon for a larger MUD, like Brushy Creek just outside Round Rock, to provide residents with parks and recreational facilities.

Take a moment and consider: How do you get water in your home?

For many, the answer is probably from the City of Austin. Austin, like many other Central Texas cities, owns and operates its own water and wastewater (sewer) systems. But, if you live just outside the city limits, there's a good chance you're getting water from a MUD.

A MUD, or municipal utility district, is its own independent, limited form of local government. Its main purpose is to provide residents with water and wastewater services.

It's not uncommon, though, for a larger MUD, like Brushy Creek, which is just outside Round Rock, to provide residents with more services, like parks and recreational facilities.

"It's more like its own little city, minus the police and fire service," said Amy Giannini, a district engineer at the Brushy Creek MUD. "We have our own recreation center, we have four different pools, several parks."

Why are MUDs created?

But what's the point of creating a MUD? If it's so similar to a city, why not just try and get water from an actual city?

Linda Fabre does a good job of explaining why. For more than 30 years, she has lived in the Williamson and Travis Counties MUD No. 1, which is tucked between Cedar Park and Austin.

"The way MUDs come about in Texas is a developer and their investors want to build property, but the surrounding cities don't have an infrastructure on the land to provide water," she said.

Basically, a MUD helps developers pay for all the pipes and infrastructure needed to build neighborhood.

First, developers either ask the state Legislature to create a MUD or petition the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality for one.

Then, if they are granted a MUD, developers begin laying down infrastructure and building the neighborhood — fronting the costs of the project.

After the neighborhood is built, the newly created MUD sells bonds to pay the developer back.

"Those bonds are paid off by the residents who purchase property in the neighborhood," Fabre said, "typically over a 30-year period."

How is a MUD governed?

To facilitate that payment and to make sure all of the water and wastewater systems are working the way they should, a five-member MUD board of directors made up of people living in the neighborhood is created.

The board can hire consultants and advisers, like engineers and attorneys, to help look after the neighborhood.

"We hire an operator and that person — they manage the day-to-day operations. They make sure that water's flowing, they test it to make sure it's clean and safe," Fabre said. "And things that they don't personally repair or fix or address, they subcontract that work."

Why you should care

So now that you know what a MUD is, as well as why it's created and how it's governed, it's time to address the big question: Why should you care?

Honestly, if you don't live in a MUD, perhaps you shouldn't. But, if you do, your property taxes are helping run it. It's important for you to understand what your MUD board is doing, how it's spending your money and what it's doing to make sure you have access to clean water now and into the future.

"You have to get involved. Not a lot of people do for the same reasons I didn't for my first 27 years living here. Life, family, jobs — those things rule at a young age," Fabre said. "But at some point, getting involved means that you can shape the future."

Kailey Hunt is KUT's Williamson County reporter. Got a tip? Email her at Follow her on Twitter @KaileyEHunt.
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