Stage 2 Watering Rules Are Upon Us

For those new to our city — and for residents who may have forgotten — we’ve compiled answers to a few frequently asked questions about Stage 2 watering rules.

It’s not even May yet, but rainfall has been well below annual averages and the temperatures continue to climb, causing the Edwards Aquifer level to drop steadily. As a result, Stage 2 watering rules have been declared effective April 13.

It’s been a while since we’ve been in Stage 2. For those new to San Antonio — and for residents who may have forgotten what Stage 2 watering rules involve — we’ve compiled answers to a few frequently asked questions we’ve been hearing for the last week or so.

What are the watering times for Stage 2?

Your day to water does not change from Stage 1 to Stage 2, but the times permitted to do so change to 7-11 a.m. and 7-11 p.m. You may water both in the morning and the evening.

Why 7-11 a.m. and 7-11 p.m.?

In reviewing Stage 2 watering rules as part of the City of San Antonio ordinance updates, we took into consideration several factors. More than 70 percent of our customer’s water by hand and many wanted watering hours when it’s still light out. Also, the old watering hours were difficult to remember and the best times to water plants are at dawn and dusk. So, community stakeholders came together and decided the “7 to 11” numbers met all requirements.

When can I hand water?

Hand watering is allowed anytime and on any day. But keep in mind the best time to water is at dawn or dusk. Hand watering is the most effective conservation irrigation method because it targets only what needs water.

Drip irrigation is allowed on multiple days, but soaker hoses are only allowed on my watering day. What is the difference between the two?

Drip irrigation system

Drip irrigation is water conveyed through a pipe or tube, under pressure, that supplies a precise amount of water from emitters equally spaced along the pipe or tube. Drip includes a backflow device and filter to prevent water siphoning back into your home.

Soaker hoses are reconstituted black rubber or flat green rubber strips that gush water indiscriminately from one end to the other. They’re not very conservation-oriented so they’re grouped with sprinklers and in-ground irrigation systems.

Will my grass die?

That depends on the grass species and amount of soil, but it’s not very likely. Our research indicates that most South Texas turf varieties will survive for 60 days without water if enough soil is present. The more soil, the less likely the grass will be damaged.

What about my live oaks — will they die without enough water?

Live oaks and other native trees are quite capable of withstanding significant droughts, and they have done so repeatedly. A good soaking once a month at the dripline during the summer is all they need to survive and grow well. The dripline is the edge of the tree canopy where most of the roots that absorb water and nutrients reside.

What is the difference between drip and bubblers?

Although we group drip and bubblers together, each has very specific rates. Drip is in gallons per hour and bubblers are in gallons per minute. Depending on design, drip irrigation has a run time of 30-60 minutes, while bubblers generally run for 5-10 minutes. Both may be run any day of the week during permitted times of the day.

Why do we have drought restrictions?

SAWS water management goals are twofold: to effectively manage our existing supplies and to develop new water sources for the future. Conservation — water we don’t use — is still the city’s cheapest source of water. SAWS manages water supplies through watering rules and long-term water conservation programs. Residents and businesses reduce lawn irrigation and other non-essential water use. This combined community effort has worked very well, saving millions, if not billions, of gallons of water.

Why can’t SAWS stop my neighbor from “illegal” watering?

For someone to receive a citation, a SAWS employee or one of the off-duty law officers working for SAWS must witness the violation in progress. Rather than cite everyone, the goal is to change behavior and encourage water conservation. If someone contacts SAWS about a violation, a warning letter will be sent to the alleged violator, or a SAWS professional may contact them personally.

We hope these explanations have been helpful. If you don’t see your query addressed here or have additional questions, give us a call at 210-704-SAVE (7283), and we’ll do our best to answer them for you.

Picture of Mark Peterson
Mark Peterson
Mark A. Peterson was a conservation project coordinator for San Antonio Water System before retiring. With over 30 years of experience as an urban forester and arborist, Mark is probably the only person you know who actually prunes trees for fun. When not expounding on the benefits of trees and limited lawns, you're likely to find him hiking San Antonio's wilderness parks or expounding on the virtues of geography and history to his friends.
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