Weekly Column, Week of December
4, 2000 Prime Time Newspapers Calvin R. Finch, Ph.D., Director
of Conservation, SAWS, and Horticulturist
The water restrictions are over for 2000.
We will always have droughts in San Antonio, but as more and more
of the alternative water sources are brought on-line we should
be less dependent on water use restrictions to protect the aquifer
levels. In addition to new water sources, San Antonians continue
their success in reducing per capita water use. From a high point
in 1984 where we used 213 gallons per person per day, we are now
at about 150 gallons per person per day. The goal is to reach
140 gallons per person per day by 2004 through use of low flow
toilets, xeriscape, leak repair, industrial process improvement,
recycled water and other conservation practices.
The goals of the restrictions in 2000 were
to reduce water demand by five percent in Stage 1 and 10 percent
in Stage 2. Demand was, in fact, reduced by 15.73 percent over
what it would have been without the restrictions in place. This
figure was determined by comparing water demand since 1996 in
relation to weather conditions as measured by Potential Evapotranspiration
(PET). PET is a measure of temperature, humidity, wind and solar
he restrictions only worked because a majority
of the citizens of San Antonio voluntarily followed the rules.
Only 8000 homeowners and businesses out of 300,000 were identified
as breaking the rules once. Of that total, 300 did not respond
to warning and educational contacts and thus were put on the chronic
water waster list. Water conservation efforts only work if the
majority of the citizens are on the conservation team. Even if
we double the reported violations in San Antonio in 2000, only
five percent of the citizens appeared to break the restrictions.
Only .2 percent of that total were chronic rule breakers. Of the
chronic water wasters 50 percent were businesses, particularly
apartments and fast food restaurants. Some neighborhoods had almost
no violators and some neighborhoods had more than their share.
The most compliant neighborhoods seemed to be those where a few
activists encouraged their friends and neighbors to follow the
rules. Overall, this is a wonderful record. Congratulations to
everyone who did their part.
We may be proud of the success in 2000 but
we must not forget the struggle and we must take steps to prepare
for future droughts. If your home was built before 1992 and you
have high flow toilets or shower heads, call 704-SAVE to get information
on how to receive a rebate on low flow appliances. Convert your
St. Augustine grass to xeriscape and for new homes select Bermuda,
zoysia grass or xeriscape (groundcovers, perennials, mulch, shrubs
and shade trees). Rebates exist for landscapes, washing machines,
irrigation rain sensors, and industrial processes. Take advantage
There was only a relatively small number of
chronic water restriction rule breakers but, based on the number
of phone calls I received, enforcement was an important part of
the water restrictions. For the small number of ratepayers who
ignored the rules, it was the job of the Conservation Enforcement
Officers to cite them with a misdemeanor ticket. Seventy-one such
tickets were given. Unfortunately, justice was not swift. The
businesses and homeowners who did not respond to warnings or educational
visits had their day in court postponed until January. The enforcement
effort requires more work and coordination between SAWS, the Prosecutorís
Office, and the Municipal Court.