Water restrictions have been lifted following a surge of rainfall in September.
Water restrictions have been lifted following a surge of rainfall in September. Credit: Flickr / Robert V

After the wettest September in San Antonio history, City officials declared an end to all drought restrictions on outdoor sprinkler use, effective Tuesday.

Following consultations with San Antonio Water System President and CEO Robert Puente, City Manager Sheryl Sculley on Monday announced an end to once-a-week watering restrictions, SAWS spokesperson Anne Hayden wrote in a news release Monday.

Outdoor irrigation use starting Tuesday is permitted any day of the week before 11 a.m. and after 7 p.m., with hand-watering and drip irrigation still allowed at any time. City ordinances prohibit wasting water. 

Through late fall and winter, SAWS customers also should conserve water to save on their sewer bills, Hayden wrote. To account only for indoor water use, SAWS uses a customers’ water use from mid-November to mid-March to estimate how much wastewater they send down the sewer.

Before September, San Antonio had been under watering restrictions since May 21, with drought creeping into most of Texas over the summer. Hayden cited replenishment of the Edwards Aquifer and National Weather Service forecasts for above-average rainfall for the rest of the year as reasons SAWS officials recommended lifting drought restrictions.

Like San Antonio, much of the eastern U.S. had a wetter-than-normal September. The weather station at the San Antonio International Airport recorded 16.86 inches, the most recorded in any September here since record-keeping began in the 1880s.

Since Sept. 1, the level of the Edwards Aquifer below San Antonio has risen from 642 feet above sea level to nearly 677 feet as of Monday. That has restored water to aquifer-fed springs downtown, such as San Pedro Springs and the Blue Hole at the headwaters of the San Antonio River.

Drought conditions have retreated from nearly all of South Texas and most of the Hill Country, according to the most recent U.S. Drought Monitor for Sept. 25. The upper Medina, upper Guadalupe, and Frio rivers are among the waterways running higher than normal, according to U.S. Geological Survey river gauges.

A steady flow in the upper Medina River is also filling Medina Lake northwest of San Antonio. Since Sept. 1, the lake has risen from approximately 45 percent full to nearly 70 percent, according to the Texas Water Development Board.

These trends could continue over the next three months, with National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration forecasters predicting above-average rainfall for most of Texas.

Brendan Gibbons is a former senior reporter at the San Antonio Report. He is an environmental journalist for Oil & Gas Watch.