SAN ANTONIO -

The Edwards Aquifer Authority announced new water restrictions Monday that will require significant pumping reductions.

The new stage 5 restrictions are part of a habitat conservation plan required by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. It is designed to protect endangered species that live in springs fed by the aquifer.

Edwards Aquifer Authority general manager Roland Ruiz said stage 5 would require a 44% reduction in pumping.

"Stage five is intended to be the most dramatic reduction in our water use," Ruiz said. "It's a 44% reduction and how you get there, we're leaving it up to the discretion of each water utility."

To trigger stage 5 in San Antonio, well levels would need to dip below 625 feet at the J-17 monitoring well for 10 days. The well level was at 648 feet on Monday.

"Today we aren't anywhere near that but given the fact we're two years into a drought, if this drought persists, and we know demand will go up the warmer it gets, it's a real possibility that we could see stage 5, or toy with the idea of stage 5, later this year if we don't get some rain pretty quick," Ruiz said.

In Uvalde, it's a different story. Stage 5 is triggered when the monitoring well there goes below 840 feet. Monday's reading was 838. If it stays there they'll be in stage 5 by March 28.

"It's having a huge economic impact on this community right now," said Uvalde Mayor J. Allen Carnes.

Carnes said water customers will see their bills go up but the bigger impact will be on the area's agriculture industry. With less water, farmers are planting fewer crops and that's having a ripple effect on the local economy.

"They're buying less seed in town from the seed dealers and buying less parts from the tractor dealers and less new tractors," Carnes said. "In turn, there's less new money to be spent at grocery stores and car dealerships and on down the line."

Carnes said officials are now looking at leasing water rights and securing a secondary water source but that could be very costly. He suggested everyone pray for rain.

In San Antonio, thanks to conservation efforts, SAWS said its customers won't feel as much of an impact. 

"We're looking at reductions but thankfully San Antonio has been preparing for this kind of drought for a long time," said Anne Hayden, a spokeswoman for SAWS. "We really don't have a stage 5, it's up to SAWS to manage our water resources and shift those around to meet those reductions required by the EAA."

While we might not see the aquifer level drop to 625 feet in San Antonio, we do still face the possibility of stage 3 water restrictions which would mean landscape and other outdoor watering would only be allowed once every 2 weeks.

Hayden said unless we get some serious rain, SAWS customers could be in Stage 3 by May.

For a list of recent stories Tim Gerber has done, click here.