Stage 3 declared as newly approved drought rules take effect

In addition to watering times, the changes also include a new process for water waste violations and new rules for drip irrigation.

With the ongoing drought and the Edwards Aquifer at record lows despite recent beneficial rains, Stage 3 watering rules have been declared for the first time for residential and commercial customers within the SAWS service area — and just in time for new landscape watering rules.

San Antonio City Council’s approval of the updates to the city’s drought ordinance come after a long period of public input that began last summer. The new rules became effective immediately upon City Council approval.

Here’s what you need to know about the new rules and how they could affect you.

  1. New watering hours

    The new watering hours are 5-10 a.m. and 9 p.m. to midnight, on your watering day.

    These watering times apply to customers watering with in-ground irrigation and drip systems as well as soaker hoses and sprinklers attached to the end of a hose.

    Note: Hose-end sprinkler users can request a variance from SAWS to water from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m.

  1. Non-compliance charge

    To make drought rule enforcement more fair, SAWS will no longer issue citations through San Antonio municipal courts. Instead, beginning with the billing cycle on July 6, water waste non-compliance charges will appear on your SAWS water bill.

    This means the rules will now apply to all SAWS customers, not just those within the San Antonio city limits.

    As before, violations need to be witnessed in person by SAWS-trained enforcement. (You may report suspected water waste online, but on-site confirmation and documentation is required by SAWS enforcement staff.) On request, customers can review the evidence and, if desired, appeal the enforcement decision to a Board-appointed committee of non-SAWS employees.

  1. New Stage 3 and 4 drought surcharges

    A new surcharge will encourage both residential and commercial customers with very high outdoor water use to conserve.

    Unlike the previous Stage 3 twice-a-month watering restrictions, the surcharge will only affect the top 5% of water users.

    For single-family accounts, the Stage 3 surcharge of $10.37 per thousand gallons will take effect for water use above 20,000 gallons per month. (In Stage 4, this threshold drops to 12,000 gallons.)

    Commercial irrigation surcharge amounts will vary based on water use and meter size.

  1. New drip irrigation rules

    Even though drip irrigation makes more efficient use of water than spray nozzles, the amount of water used per hour tends to be about the same for both.

    For customers using drip irrigation, the new rules allow two days per week (Monday and Friday) for drip irrigation during Stages 2 and 3.

  1. Reviews of irrigation system plans starting in 2025

    The lack of inspections for newly installed irrigation systems means statewide standards have not always been followed. And systems that are poorly constructed will continue to waste water for years to come.

    To fill this gap, in 2025 SAWS will begin reviewing irrigation plans prior to construction, and in 2026 will begin inspecting installed systems for proper operation before they are approved.

To learn more about the landscape watering changes and the reasons behind them, visit

For weekly watering advice, water-saving tips, and money-saving coupons and rebates, visit

Picture of Brad Wier
Brad Wier
Brad Wier is a SAWS conservation planner. Years in South Texas landscaping and public horticulture gave him a lasting enthusiasm for native plants that don’t die when sprinklers -- and gardeners -- break down. He’d rather save time and water for kayaking and tubing. He is a former kilt model, and hears hummingbirds.
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