As Austin's drought persists, the city remains under Stage 2 water use restrictions. Despite rules limiting how much water businesses and residents can use, one restaurant has found a creative way to keep their lush, tropical landscape thriving without using a single drop of the city's supply.

The gist

The upscale Mexican restaurant Fonda San Miguel collects water condensation from its four air conditioning units to water their plants every day. According to the property manager, Diego Rodriguez, the innovation is saving thousands in water bills.

Under the current restrictions, Austin businesses are only allowed to water their landscaping once a week on a scheduled basis, but this rule does not apply to those using alternative water sources.

The backstory

In June, Rodriguez discovered a large amount of water pooling in the street when the city's water and wastewater system drain was clogged. Rodriguez said he purchased a 1,000-liter tank to collect the water, and within 24 hours, it was completely full.

Rodriguez said he connected the second tank to be able to water the plants on a daily basis. In total, he spent less than $500 on the project.

"Anyone can do it," Rodriguez said. "I save the water at my house also, one air conditioning unit. I have a 50-gallon tank, and it gets full every day."

Looking ahead

Rodriguez said he plans to continue using the system throughout the hotter months and transition to rainwater harvesting in the winter.

Austin Water Conservation Manager Kevin Kluge said he has never seen anything like Rodriguez's system used for a commercial property, but he hopes more businesses can follow suit with higher-efficiency appliances and better irrigation systems as water restrictions become the summer norm.

What residents should know

Austin residents and business owners seeking to use similar alternative water systems or water-efficient appliances can earn money from the city's rebate programs. Business owners tracking their water savings can earn up to $100,000.

Another detail

Under Stage 2 restrictions, restaurant customers have to ask servers if they would like waters brought to the tables.

Additionally, restaurants may only operate patio misters from 4 p.m. to midnight.