For The Answer
Water Conservation Ordinance, Express Your Opinion
On January 20th, the Water Conservation Ordinance goes to the City Council for their consideration. Many of the readers of this column have followed the progress of the ordinance since we began work on it in 2001. Over 4,000 San Antonians participated in the survey that was offered on the San Antonio Water System (SAWS) website and at events such as the Festival of Flowers, Music by Moonlight, Neighborhood Resource Seminar and Spring Bloom Giveaway. Every provision that remains in the ordinance had well over 50% support. SAWS staff has met with over 50 groups on the ordinance and has the support of many stakeholder groups including the Greater San Antonio Builders Association, San Antonio Car Wash Association, Garden Volunteers of South Texas, Irrigators, Cooling Tower Contractors and Turfgrass Growers.
There is one more chance for the public to offer comments to SAWS staff before it goes to Council. You can, of course, express your opinion to your Council Person or the whole Council at anytime prior to the vote. On January 11th between 6pm and 8pm you may attend a discussion on the Ordinance at the Witte Museum. At 6pm the Conservation Staff will begin a 20-minute outline of the provisions of the proposed Ordinance and then we will field questions to allow attendees to make statements of up to 3 minutes each on the Ordinance or particular provisions. At 8pm the session will end unless there are more attendees who have not had an opportunity to make a statement.
It is important that individuals who support the Ordinance express themselves at the session as well as individuals who do not favor the Ordinance and/or are against a proposed provision. It is expected that some individuals would like to see an even stronger Water Conservation Ordinance.
The centerpiece of the Ordinance are the provisions that require that all landscapes on new homes constructed after January 1, 2006 be low water use landscapes. The provisions in this group require that there be 4 inches of soil under all turf grass, that irrigation systems be zoned to water turf apart from other plant types, that every housing development has a model with a xeriscape landscape. In 2007, only the lawn grasses that are capable of surviving 60 days of drought can be used for new homes by contractors.
Car washes will be required by the Ordinance to be more efficient and all charitable car washes will need to be held at certified car washes. The provision will reduce water waste, contamination from parking lots and it will increase revenues for the charities that use the fundraising tactic.
Nothing is more wasteful than a sprinkler system that runs in the rain. The Ordinance has a provision that requires all in-ground irrigation systems to have a rain sensor by 2006. SAWS gives rebates for rain sensors.
Cooling Towers can use huge amounts of water, especially if they are poorly managed. The Ordinance will require that all Cooling Towers be managed to complete 4 cycles before they make a complete replacement of water.
Air conditioning condensate has the potential to replace huge amounts of potable water. The San Antonio library produces 1.5 gallons of water per minute for most of the year. That is more than enough water to keep their landscape well watered. Beginning in 2006 newly constructed large buildings will have to pipe their condensate water to a central location to make it easier to use the water.
The Ordinance proposes to require that all properties of 5 acres or more that have an in-ground irrigation system complete an analysis of that system every year by May. New irrigation systems must also utilize design features that reduce water waste violations. Two of the features are keeping sprinkler heads at least 6 inches from impervious driveways and sidewalks, and strips under 6 feet in width be irrigated by something other than sprinkler heads (if they must be irrigated).
The Ordinance will require that companies that power spray impervious surfaces be certified and understand the City’s water quality protection and water conservation rules.
For more information on the Ordinance visit the SAWS website or attend the January 11th Discussion Event. I will see you there.