SAWS headquarters at 2800 US-281. Photo by Iris Dimmick.
SAWS headquarters at 2800 US-281. Photo by Iris Dimmick.

New Braunfels Utilities has resumed its enforcement of watering restrictions as water levels in the Edwards Aquifer continues to decrease and nearby cities might not be too far behind.

The central Texas city, just 30 miles away from San Antonio, has a lower threshold for when drought restrictions should apply. While San Antonio Water System is beholden to a 10-day average that dictates restrictions, New Braunfels immediately imposes a once-a-week sprinkler/irrigation use rule once the water level dips below 660 feet.

On June 9, SAWS announced that the aquifer was above 660 feet. For the first time since 2012, Stage 2 restrictions were lifted. The city has had some type of water restrictions in place since 2011.

As of this morning, the 10-day average was back down to 660.8 feet and SAWS staff has already begun to organize public notices that would bring back Stage 1 drought restrictions after less than three weeks of less-restrictive Year-Round watering policy, said SAWS spokesperson Anne Hayden on Tuesday. “Because SAWS has to stay within pumping limits, we’re constantly looking at the Edwards (Aquifer) level and restrictions. … This is not a crisis, just a way we manage our water (demand).”

Hayden said staff is expecting to have to reinstate Stage 1 restrictions sometime this week – depending, of course on the weather. Some rain is expected over the weekend, but temperatures will likely remain in the double digits into August.

Meanwhile, some residents and conservationists are asking if SAWS customers should permanently follow Stage 1 or even Stage 2 drought restrictions given South Texas’ propensity for drought.

Annalisa Peace, executive director of the nonprofit Greater Edwards Aquifer Alliance (GEAA), said that since Stage 2 is manageable – as evidenced by implementation for the last three years – it should become the new standard for year-round restrictions.

“People get confused when you keep changing it for one,” Peace said. “And secondly, when you put in well-thought restrictions, people change their business (and home) models of water use to make due.”

Stage 2 drought restrictions tighten the times irrigation and sprinkler lawn watering is allowed, requires hotels and motels to offer a “linen/towel change on request only” program, and maintains a long list of other restrictions from Stage 1. The current Year-Round restrictions allow for more non-essential outdoor water use. However, it’s always illegal to waste water. Click here to learn more about water rules.

SAWS created an online survey to find out how the community would feel about imposing Stage 1 or Stage 2 restrictions year round.

Click here to take the survey, which takes less than a few minutes to complete.

“When restrictions were lifted, there was a wide range of reactions we heard from the public and even from professionals in the landscape and irrigation industry. While some people were thrilled to have the freedom to water when it is convenient, others felt that following the once per week schedule had become normal and should remain in place,” stated SAWS Conservation Manager Dana Nichols in an email earlier this month. “The survey was created to give our community the opportunity to let us know how they feel.”

*Featured/top image: SAWS headquarters at 2800 US-281. Photo by Iris Dimmick.

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Iris Dimmick

Senior Reporter Iris Dimmick covers public policy pertaining to social issues, ranging from affordable housing and economic disparity to policing reform and workforce development. Contact her at iris@sareport.org