City Council weighs permanent water restrictions

SAWS not in support of year-round, once weekly watering

SAN ANTONIO – The city’s sole water utility re-emphasized Wednesday its opposition to implementing permanent water restrictions.

The proposal, made by District 8 Councilman Ron Nirenberg, who is also a candidate for mayor, would limit watering to once a week year-round.

At the urging of the city council’s Transportation, Technology and Utilities Committee, SAWS sought a third-party analysis of the projected effect of the proposal, which was explained before the committee Wednesday.

Freese and Nichols, Inc., presented its results which found SAWS would save a projected 1.25 percent of its water supply, amounting to roughly 3,275 acre feet of water annually, under permanent once-weekly watering restrictions.

Robert Puente, SAWS president and CEO, says, in reality, water would not be saved because it would remain in the aquifer for other pumpers to consume.

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Puente also explained why SAWS would impose a rate increase for customers between 1 and 4 percent if permanent restrictions were implemented.

“Because we rely, often times, on peak usage of water during the summertime,” he said. “We have plenty of water to sell, our customers buy it, our revenues go up. And so if you have once-a-week watering, we would not being able to see that water. We would have less revenue and therefore we'd have to go back out to the public for a rate increase.”

The Alamo Group of the Sierra Club, an organization of conservation proponents, agreed in part Thursday that permanent restrictions are not the solution to conservation.

The group issued a statement saying, Year-round watering restrictions are not a very effective conservation measure, but they do have the value of making people more aware that water should never be wasted.”

The Sierra Club provided statement below:

“Last December, when Mr. Puente discussed this issue with City Council, Councilmember Nirenberg pointed out – correctly, we believe – that SAWS should be providing water service – not selling water. The problem is that SAWS has acquired too much extremely expensive water, in part to be able to assure residents with water-guzzling lawns that they don’t have to cut back water usage when the EAA declares Stages 3 and 4 drought restrictions.”

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The Sierra Club plans to unveil its own water-conservation plan Thursday morning.

City Council will now decide whether to move forward with a vote on permanent water restrictions.

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