Despite the rain over the weekend, the Edwards Aquifer Authority declared Stage 4 water restrictions Saturday, reducing the amount of pumping out of the aquifer by permit holders such as the San Antonio Water System by 40%.

Even with the increased restrictions, SAWS said over the weekend that its customers will remain under Stage 2 watering rules. The utility has never entered Stage 3 watering restrictions, even during the 2011 drought.

The additional restrictions are the result of low flows from the Comal Springs, the authority, said. The Comal Springs’ 10-day rolling average value was at 96 cubic feet per second as of Thursday, which is below the threshold for the aquifer authority’s Stage 4, it said.

Because the Comal and San Marcos springs provide habitats for threatened and endangered species that are protected under the Edwards Aquifer Habitat Conservation Plan, the authority uses spring flow as an indicator for controlling the aquifer.

The current drought, which has reduced flows in both springs to levels not seen within the last decade, is now rivaling that of 2011, said National Weather Service Meteorologist Monte Oaks. That year was the driest year on record for Texas, with an average of only 14.8 inches of rain, he said.

Although Bexar County saw some rain over the weekend and may see more this week, it’s amounted to less than an inch in total, Oaks said, meaning the county is still very much in “exceptional” drought conditions. Rainfall measured at the San Antonio International Airport this year has amounted to only about 5.3 inches total. An average year for San Antonio sees about 34 inches of rain.

The heat has been unrelenting, too. San Antonio has suffered through 58 days above 100 degrees this year, said Oaks.

The Edwards Aquifer Authority’s jurisdiction spans eight counties including Uvalde, Medina, Bexar, and parts of Atascosa, Caldwell, Guadalupe, Comal and Hays counties. It does not regulate the general public but instead regulates Edwards well owners with withdrawal permits authorizing their right to pump from the aquifer.

In its release, SAWS said customers should see “no foreseeable outdoor watering changes for SAWS customers.”

This is because SAWS has diversified San Antonio’s water supplies, with the Edwards Aquifer now accounting for just about half of the drinking water SAWS provides. The utility’s non-Edwards Aquifer water supplies include the Vista Ridge Project, stored water and recycled water.

Cognizant of the severe drought, however, SAWS used Saturday’s announcement to remind customers that those who don’t comply with Stage 2 watering limits could be subject to a citation with fines of about $150 for first-time offenses.

So far this year, increased patrolling around the clock has resulted in more than 1,200 citations being issued so far this year since Stage 2 went into effect in April, SAWS stated.

“We have been patrolling neighborhoods, including gated communities, in an effort to enforce compliance with Stage 2,” said Karen Guz, SAWS director of conservation. “We’re past the point of issuing warnings; anyone caught wasting water or breaking Stage 2 watering rules will receive a citation.”

Lindsey Carnett covers the environment, science and utilities for the San Antonio Report. A native San Antonian, she graduated from Texas A&M University in 2016 with a degree in telecommunication media...