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 killed sod.
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 information.
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% non-compliance rate.
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.