San Antonio City Council on June 20 approved the San Antonio Water System’s new watering rules, which include adjusted watering hours and drip irrigation regulations, and a noncompliance charge replacing a citation for violations.

The full story

The revised rules, which immediately go into effect, are part of SAWS' water conservation plan and are the result of a months-long process.

The new watering hours have been expanded to 5-10 a.m. and 9 p.m.-midnight when SAWS enters water conservation stages 2, 3 and 4, giving customers more time to water in the morning and in the evening, and to help offset peak energy demand, according to SAWS officials. A resident’s watering day is determined by the last digit in their address.

In another change, SAWS will put a water waste noncompliance fee on a customer’s bill when a violation is found and investigated by SAWS staff. The charge will replace the municipal citation previously provided to violators. SAWS officials said the new process will be more efficient, and avoid taking up municipal court resources and time. SAWS customers who disagree with the charge will still have a chance to appeal through a committee composed of non-SAWS employees.

SAWS also restructured stage 3 and 4 drought restrictions where the utility will impose a new high-use surcharge to encourage residential and commercial customers with very high outdoor use to conserve. SAWS officials said this change will affect the top 5% of water users.

According to SAWS representatives, in this scenario, a Stage 3 surcharge of $10.37 per 1,000 gallons will take effect for water use above 20,000 gallon a month for single-family accounts. In Stage 4, that threshold drops to 12,000 gallons. This specific change will move existing Stage 3 conservation rules for twice-monthly watering periods to Stage 4.

Additionally, SAWS will expand drip irrigation opportunities to three times a week depending on the drought stage. Drip irrigation had been limited to once a week. Watering hours here will be 5-10 a.m. and 9 p.m.-midnight.

What they’re saying

Karen Guz, SAWS’ vice president of conservation, said San Antonio is in a fifth straight year of drought, and Edwards Aquifer water levels keep dropping. However, Guz added it is important for SAWS as the city-owned and primary water utility to strengthen enforcement of rules, and still give customers flexibility.

“These changes create a more fair and efficient system for all of our customers—even those that reside outside of San Antonio city limits,” Guz said in a statement.

Guz said conservation will continue to be a key part of overall efforts toward protecting San Antonio’s water supplies as the area’s population keeps growing.

“Managing this drought has been challenging, but we’ve also learned a lot about our water use,” Guz said in a statement. “These new rules will help us conserve and manage our resources, and reduce water waste so that we can minimize the need for stricter rules in the future.”

North San Antonio Chamber of Commerce officials issued a joint statement favoring council approval of SAWS’ revised watering rules, especially the drip irrigation adjustments they said will benefit businesses.

“Drip irrigation is known for its high efficiency in water usage, delivering water directly to the root zone, minimizing waste and promoting better plant health,” chamber officials stated. “These systems help conserve water resources, minimize environmental impact and reduce operational costs for businesses."