Stage III water restrictions allow irrigation watering only once every two weeks. Photo courtesy of SAWS.
San Antonio Water System is exploring alternate methods of enforcing its watering restrictions during drought. Credit: Courtesy / SAWS

The recent combination of intense rains and unusually low temperatures has allowed the 10-day average level of the Edwards Aquifer to rise well above 660 feet, triggering an end to Stage 2 water restrictions as of Wednesday, June 10. San Antonio has observed San Antonio Water System’s Stage 2 restrictions since 2012 and has had some type of water restrictions since 2011.

“Prior to recent rain events extending from April through June, the Edwards Aquifer level was at 644.3 feet. Today, the Aquifer level reading is at 664.7 feet,” stated a City press release.

Starting Wednesday, residents can water with an irrigation system or hose-end sprinkler on any day of the week before 11 a.m. or after 7 p.m., explained Karen Guz, SAWS director of conservation. During Stage 2, residents were limited to watering once a week on certain days of the week. Stage 2 also restricts cleaning large outdoor surfaces, outdoor water fountains, and more.

“But it’s never a free for all for water in San Antonio,” Guz said. “It is always illegal to waste water. If you water so much that it runs down the street, that can still get you a ticket.”

SAWS has more relaxed Year-Round water restrictions even when the aquifer is high. The timing, for instance, is still limited to avoid lawn-watering during the hottest, windiest times of day. Click here for more information about current/year-round restrictions.

While it’s now not “illegal” to water more than once a week, Guz said that doing so “will not be an inexpensive choice. The average irrigation system uses 2,000 gallons or more.”

Watering lawns once a week – even in San Antonio summers – is more than enough to maintain healthy grass, she said. Sure, it may be less than perfect, but grass is designed to make a come back after the hottest months.

“We don’t know what the aquifer will do in the next few weeks,” Guz warned. “It could be down in 10 days … the more everybody pays attention, the less likely that will be.”

SAWS offers various coupons for water-saving yard designs and plants. The application period for the WaterSaver Patioscape coupon, for instance, closes at the end of the month. Click here for details on all indoor and outdoor rebates and coupons provided by SAWS.

The new Garden Style San Antonio magazine and newsletter, free from SAWS, also provided tips, tricks, and forecasts for maintaining lush – but water efficient – plants, vegetables, lawns, and more.

“SAWS diversification of water sources has allowed our customers to avoid some of the worst of the drought restrictions that many of our neighbors have dealt with,” stated SAWS President and CEO Robert Puente in a news release. “However, we are heading into a high use time of year and future forecasts will determine how long we can stay restriction free. We will continue to monitor Edwards Aquifer levels and will consider returning to drought restrictions if exceedingly dry weather returns, or if the aquifer starts dropping significantly.”

The restrictions were lifted as per City ordinance after consideration by City Manager Sheryl Sculley in consultation with Puente.

*Top image: Stage 3 water restrictions allow irrigation watering only once every two weeks. Photo courtesy of SAWS.

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