SAWS customers can turn on their irrigation systems one time any day of the week under the current Year-Round watering rules. Photo via Flickr user Ricardo Bernardo.
SAWS customers can turn on their irrigation systems one time any day of the week under the current Year-Round watering rules. Photo via Flickr user Ricardo Bernardo.

For the first time since 2011, San Antonio Water System (SAWS) was able to end almost all water-use restrictions on June 10 after a rainy early summer. As per city ordinance, once the 10-day average level of the Edwards Aquifer rises above 660 feet, drought restrictions are lifted. But SAWS is reconsidering that rule and is asking for community input on whether there should be more strict Year-Round conservation rules to emphasize conservation even during rainy seasons.

SAWS’ online survey wants to know how the community would feel about imposing Stage 1 or Stage 2 restrictions year round, which would further limit which day and time residents can water their lawns.

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. “The survey was created to give our community the opportunity to let us know how they feel.”

Even without drought restrictions, it’s still illegal to waste water. But now SAWS customers can water their lawns – with irrigation systems or a hose – any day of the week before 11 a.m. or after 7 p.m. instead of waiting for their designated day. The time of day is still limited by the Year-Round restrictions to avoid lawn-watering during the hottest, windiest times of day.

“Limiting spray irrigation to once per week year-round would save water, but that has to be weighed against the inconvenience to citizens and concerns of those who would like to water more often.  The survey is just one way that SAWS will get feedback on this issue,” Nichols said. “As we update our Water Management Plan, we will be seeking input on many topics and encourage the community to engage at community meetings or digital media like the electronic survey.”

SAWS officials have estimated that in most years, 30% of San Antonio’s water goes directly on to lawns and landscape. During the historic drought of 2011, it was almost 50%.

This wouldn’t be first or last time changes have been made to the water restrictions ordinance. Throughout the years SAWS and City Council have adjusted it to reflect and balance the needs of customers and sustainability goals.

“One of the rules that was changed in 2013 allowed car washing from 3 a.m. to 8 a.m. or from 8 to 11 p.m.  This did not have the effect we had hoped for from a conservation perspective, and proved to be onerous to people who wished to wash their car at home,” Nichols said. “The Stage 2 rule was revised to allow car washing without waste at any time on a weekend. Other examples of details of the rules that have changed include the times of spray irrigation and rules for decorative fountains.”

If SAWS and its board of trustees sees enough support for a more conservative Year-Round policy, the board will make a recommendation to City Council for a vote.

For those interested in how to further save on their water bills while maintaining a healthy yard, SAWS offers various coupons for water-saving yard designs and plants throughout the year. Click here for details on indoor and outdoor rebates and coupons provided by SAWS.

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

*Featured/top image: SAWS customers can turn on their irrigation systems once a week during the morning and evenings any day of the week under the current Year-Round watering rules. Photo via Flickr user Ricardo Bernardo.

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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