Express-News Weekly Column
Saturday, December 16, 2000 Submitted by Calvin Finch, Ph.D.,
Director of Conservation, SAWS, and Horticulturist
The drought is over and the aquifer is in
good shape. We may not have a drought next summer but we will
sometime in the near future. If not next year, then again in two
or three years. The South Texas climate includes cycles of drought.
The San Antonio Water System’s plan to secure
new water sources is in place and, within a few years, we will
be less dependent on the Edwards Aquifer; but it still makes sense
to complete your resolutions to make your landscape more drought
resistant. Replace the St. Augustine with groundcovers, mulch
and hardscape, or at least zoysia, buffalo or Bermuda grass. If
you kill the St. Augustine with Round-up or Finale now before
it goes dormant, you can plant the groundcover right into the
SAWS will help towards the costs by providing
a rebate of $.10 per square foot if less than fifty percent of
the yard is in turf. If over fifty percent is grass, SAWS will
provide $.05 per square foot. New landscapes are also eligible
for the rebate. If you plant groundcovers or select zoysia, Bermuda
or buffalograss instead of St. Augustine grass for your new yard,
you can receive the $.10 or $.05 per sq. ft. rebate depending
on the percentage of grass (if under 50% of the total area is
grass you will receive a rebate of $.10 per sq. ft.). Rebates
are also available for front loading washing machines, irrigation
system rain sensors, and low flow toilets. Call 704-7527 for more
The drought restrictions were a success. The
goal was to reduce water demand by 5% in Stage I and 10% in Stage
II. Based on evapotranspiration data, demand was reduced by about
15% over what would have been pumped if the restrictions were
not in place.
The restrictions worked because most citizens
complied. Approximately 8000 ratepayers were identified as having
broken the water use rules. If you estimate that another 8000
broke the rules but were not caught, that is still only a 5.3%
Of the 8000, 300 did not respond to educational
visits and warnings and violated the restrictions more than once.
They were placed on the “water waster list.” The “water waster”
list was the list from which the Conservation Enforcement Officers
or “Water Police” worked. It was their job to ticket chronic water
wasters. Fifty-seven were ticketed as of December 3. Some paid
their fines and court costs (about $100 total), others received
probation, and some are waiting for court dates.
The goal was not to write as many tickets
as possible, the goal of enforcement was to respond to residential
homeowners and businesses that would not take the restrictions
seriously and accept their share of sacrifice in a tough situation.
The enforcement effort will continue even
though the drought restrictions have been lifted. The Conservation
Enforcement Officers will enforce the 10am to 8 pm sprinkler non-watering
hours and water wasting. Water wasting is usually defined as letting
water run down the street or failing to repair a leak.
The restrictions in 2000 were emergency rules.
The Edwards Aquifer Authority is analyzing the 2000 restrictions
and working on permanent rules to deal with future droughts. I
will keep you informed.