For The Answer
Weekly Express-News ArticleSaturday, July 16, 2005By Calvin Finch, Conservation Director and Horticulturist, SAWS
“Drought Restrictions or Not?”
As temperatures stay in the high 90’s and even the 100’s, and the Aquifer level continues to fall, I am receiving more and more questions on whether I think San Antonio will go into drought restrictions this year.
It is certainly possible. If we average a drop of .5 feet per day as we have been doing, that means without rain we have about 50 days of water use left before we would hit Stage 1 Critical Period. In Stage 1, everyone may use their lawn sprinkler once per week based on address. In San Antonio in 2000, the last time we have a long period of Critical Period (6 months) water used dropped 20% the first month of restrictions and was reduced 14% over the whole six moths.
A drop to 650 near sea level in the J-17 well is possible, but I do not think it will happen this year. Here are my reasons.
(1) We would have to go 50 days without rain. July does not look promising for showers, but most years we can count on summer rains, especially in the late summer hurricane season.
(2) The agricultural irrigation season for corn is now over. There is some cotton irrigation that will occur, but corn is the big water-using crop.
(3) SAWS customers are using 10% less water for the same uses than they did in 2000. San Antonio water users have become much more skillful in watering landscapes without wasting water. Some people let their zoysia, buffalo or Bermuda grass do dormant. It will green-up as soon as it rains again. Others are using the Seasonal Irrigation Program (SIP) recommendation to keep their lawn green without wasting water. The easiest way to receive personalized SIP recommendations is to sign up on the SAWS website for a free weekly email or phone message.
(4) The Water Police are on the job. Businesses and homeowners that water between 10:00 a.m., and 8:00 p.m., or let water run down the road, will receive a warning and then a misdemeanor ticket if they persist. Water waste can be reported to SAWS – 24 hours/day at 704-SAWS.
(5) SAWS’ large customers like golf course, universities, and business are using reuse water for their grass. The use of this treated wastewater means that they do not have to use potable water. The Riverwalk also uses more or less recycled water based on the level of the Aquifer.
(6) SAWS has the Aquifer Storage facility in south Bexar County with 1.5 billion gallons ready to be pumped back into the system so we will not have to pump as much water form the Edwards Aquifer.
Here is a special hint, for individuals that have a very old irrigation system like I do. In such systems there are always areas of the lawn that do not receive good coverage. These dry spots might encourage you to run the whole sprinkler system. That strategy is overkill! To save water just direct a few minutes of water from a handheld hose at the dry spot. You will use 15 – 20 gallons instead on the few thousand gallons that a typical irrigation system applies when it is run for a full cycle.
Another watering hint to consider. Use a leaky hose as temporary drip irrigation when you plant new perennials, shrubs and flowers in a border. Turn the spigot ¼ turn so the water just leaks out. Run it for two hours at a time. You will not use much water and the plants receive the water they need until they become established. You can discard the old hose or move it on to another site, all for $6 or $7. If you have more questions about efficient watering or have some good strategies that you use, call me on the radio noon to 2:00 p.m. every Saturday and Sunday at (210) 308-8867, or toll free (866) 308-8867, or send me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Give your plants what they need, but be water efficient!
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