For The Answer
WATER CONSERVATION ORDINANCE
If you are a citizen that believes our community is not doing everything that it could to conserve water, you will probably like the Water Conservation Ordinance that was discussed at the San Antonio Water System Board meeting on October 5th. Some of the provisions are controversial but all, except one, received over 50% support from the over 4,000 people that responded to the website survey and surveys at San Antonio Water System attended events. I will attempt to list the provisions in descending order of support. If you are against the provisions, now would be the time to call or e-mail your concerns. My number is 704-7528 and e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org. Dana Nichols is available at 704-7323. Her e-mail is email@example.com. The tentative schedule is to present the proposed ordinance to the San Antonio Water System Board on November 2 and then to the City Council on November 18. San Antonio Water System’s staff and the Community Conservation Committee, a citizens advisory group representing neighborhoods, businesses and environmental groups are recommending that the Board and Council pass the ordinance.
The most controversial provision is the one that requires that any person or business that applies for a new San Antonio Water System account after January 1, 2006 will have sixty days to change out their old high flow toilets for new toilets. This sounds more demanding than it is. The youngest toilet in the category will be fifteen years old as of 2006 (all toilets manufactured since 1992 are low flow). San Antonio Water System has been giving free high performance toilets to customers since 1996. It is time we eliminated the rest of the water wasting toilets.
The second most controversial provision included in the proposed ordinance is that the landscapes of new homes constructed after January 1, 2006 must use a lawn grass that is capable of surviving 60 days of drought without supplemental irrigation. The idea is that we should not continue to use lawn grasses that are incapable of living through our normal weather patterns. If you buy a home with the drought tolerant grass, it will survive even if there was a water emergency and we could not water our lawns. Your investment will be protected and the water would be available for other uses. San Antonio Water System is organizing a drought tolerance testing process in cooperation with the turf industry, but what the provision may mean is that St. Augustine grass will not be used for new homes anymore. Zoysia, Buffalo and Bermuda grass have the capability to go dormant during the drought. And there is now a wide variety of grasses for every landscape need.
The exciting news about new landscapes is that the new home builders represented by GSABA (Greater San Antonio Builders Association) are supporting provisions in the proposed ordinance that require four inches of soil under all lawn grass, zoned irrigation and rain sensors if homes have irrigation systems. It also appears that the industries with cooling towers and the cooling tower management industry are supporting the provision in the ordinance that require that the evaporative air conditioning units are managed to operate at a minimum of four cycles before water is replaced.
Most neighborhoods in San Antonio do not require homeowners to have an irrigation system, to use a certain grass type, or have a minimum amount of turf grass, but if they do, it will be against the law to enforce it after January 1, 2006 (if the Water Conservation Ordinance passes). There are provisions in the proposed ordinances that prohibit mandatory Homeowner Associations from enforcing rules that prevent a resident from selecting a low water landscape option. However they will be able to make rules about aesthetics as long as it does not reduce the homeowner’s ability to decide to have a low water use landscape or follow low water use cultural practices.
The ordinance will also require facilities with large properties (5 acres or more) to have their irrigation systems inspected each year by their irrigation contractor and to have a landscape water use plan. The idea of the plan is to insure that the facilities know how much water their landscape needs to stay attractive and healthy. This provision in the ordinance will affect golf courses, athletic fields and large businesses.
Other provisions in the ordinance require that charitable carwashes be held only at permanent car washes; new buildings plumb their air conditioning condensate water to a central location so it can be reused sometime in the future; all power washer firms be registered to insure that they are using water efficient practices; pop-up irrigation sprayers are only used to irrigate strips over five feet in width; and pop-up sprayers are positioned at least twelve inches from the curb.
There will be some opposition to each of the provisions described. If they are implemented, however, San Antonio will save at least 3,000 acre-feet of water (about 1 billion gallons) per year with minimal expense or inconvenience. I hope you choose to actively support the ordinance.