The practicum Racial Equity in Austin's Water Ways was a partnership between the University of Texas at Austin’s Community and Regional Planning program and Austin Water. Over the course of fall 2019, the student team, advised by Dr. Miriam Solis, worked with Austin Water staff to research and recommend innovative ways for the agency to advance racial equity through its policies and programs.
The practicum built on the priorities laid out in Austin Water’s 2018-2019 Racial Equity Action Plan and the Austin Equity Office’s Equity Assessment of the water department. The student team employed qualitative and quantative methods in their analysis to generate recommendations on three policy and program areas:
- The expansion of Austin Water’s Customer Assistance Program;
- The roll-out of advanced metering infrastructure; and
- The design of a recruitment and career pathways program for formerly incarcerated people.
Throughout the practicum, the team met with Austin Water staff, as well as representatives from the Austin Equity Office, to get feedback on fulfilling the project’s scope and equity goals. The project was the winner of the UTSOA CRP Award for Engaged Practice and the American Planning Association-Texas Advancing Diversity and Social Change Award.