For The Answer
Express-News Weekly Column
Saturday, June 16, 2001
Submitted by Calvin Finch, Ph.D., Director of Conservation, SAWS, and Horticulturist
TAKE NOTE OF YEAR-ROUND WATER RESTRICTIONS
After a cool wet spring, we have crossed into the landscape irrigation season. The aquifer levels have started to drop between .5 feet and one day at 1.7 feet. Despite the water use, however, the Edwards Aquifer Authority and SAWS computer models predict that we will stay above 650 ft. on the test well and avoid drought restrictions. The possibility of a summer without special drought restrictions, however, does not mean that we dare become wasteful in our water use.
There has been some confusion about what the watering rules are when we do not have drought conditions. San Antonio is currently under year-round restrictions. This means that it is against the law to waste water anytime in San Antonio. Water wasting is usually defined as letting water run off of your property (residence or business) into the street, sidewalk or parking lot. If you are the source of water going into the storm drain or puddling onto the street, you are subject to a misdemeanor ticket. That means that if you wash your car at home you should do it on the lawn or channel water from the driveway to the lawn by using towels (used as dams) or other means. Use a bucket and positive shut-off nozzle on the hose that stops flow when you are not rinsing.
The conservation enforcement officers (water police) are still on duty and responding to complaints from citizens about water waste. This week I represented SAWS in court in the case of an apartment building that was cited for water waste.
The usual scenario is for the water waster to receive a warning and educational visit or letter. If the officer witnesses the offense a second time, the officer may issue a ticket. The law states that the first offense is fined at $50200; the second offense, $250500; and the third offense, $750 to $1000. There is no provision for jail time, but based on the phone calls I receive and a research survey recently completed by an outside contractor for SAWS , many citizens think we are not being tough enough on water wasters. Approximately 75% of the respondents thought water wasters should be fined. We think that if jail time for water wasters was offered as a choice to the respondents, a large number would have said lock them up.
The second major provision of the year-around regulations in San Antonio is the prohibition on using your sprinkler during the hours of 10 a.m. through 8 p.m. This provision was implemented in 1988 to eliminate sprinkler irrigation during the part of the day when sprinkling is least efficient because of wind and high temperatures.
You can hand water any time and use drip irrigation, but your sprinkler needs to be used before 10 a.m. or after 8 p.m.
Here are some other ideas to consider to reduce water use but have a healthy landscape:
· Have your irrigation system checked by your irrigation contractor. Leaks occur and heads need replacement every year.
· Do not use your timer and turn on the sprinkler only when the lawn needs water (once per week or less).
· If you use your timer for vacations, install a rain sensor. They cost between $60 and $100 installed and SAWS will give you a rebate for up to half of the cost (up to $50). They are also simple enough that you can install them yourself.
· Do not water plants that do not need irrigation. Healthy oaks, shrubs and perennials do not need watering every week.
· Follow the ET (evapo-transpiration) watering recommendation provided each week in the Saturday SA Life section of the Express-News, on KABB TV, and on our KLUP radio show at noon on Saturdays. ET tells you how much to water each type of grass based on the previous weeks weather. Experiments the last four years determined your lawn will look good and that it saves water. Call the Bexar County office of the Texas Agricultural Extension Service at 467-6575 for more information.
· Call SAWS out for a free Landscape Irrigation System Analysis (LISA). It only takes 45 minutes and will save you money. To schedule an appointment call 704-7354.
· To report water waste call 227-6143.