Why don’t you have running water? SAWS explains ‘complicated’ water issue in San Antonio area

SAWS says even with backup water services, power outages have ‘complicated’ the system

Photos courtesy of San Antonio Water System. (San Antonio Water System)

SAN ANTONIO – Snow started to fall in San Antonio on Sunday and while much of Texas may have looked like a winter wonderland, it soon turned into a nightmare for many residents who lost power and water.

For some people without water, the problem may be frozen pipes but for others, the issue may come from SAWS.

SAWS’ system is experiencing low pressure and outages due to power shortages, officials with the utility have said.

The service outages have impacted some of the pump stations and how quickly the storage tanks refill. That is resulting in low water pressure in some areas.

A viral post on social media falsely claimed that SAWS is turning off residents’ water, but that is not true.

Anne Hayden, communications manager for SAWS, says that San Antonio’s “unique” system spans a massive geographic area and parts of the Hill Country.

In a post on social media on Tuesday, SAWS assured residents that it had “backup systems to provide San Antonio with water.” According to Hayden, this means that services have been expanded— in part due to federal regulations— to include non-Edwards Aquifer water like the Carrizo-Willcox Aquifer, Vista Ridge Pipeline and Canyon Regional water, to name a few.

Within the Edwards Aquifer area, Hayden says the system has more than 200 water pumps, but the additional sources provide around nine potable water sources.

According to Hayden, “some” of the regional sources of water are not working because of the weather, freezes and electricity issues plaguing the area.

“There’s a lot of different things going on, actually, San Antonio, for better or worse, has one of the most complex water systems in the nation because we’re blending all these things together,” Hayden said. “We can move water around. We have multiple sources of water. So, it’s a good thing. But it’s also a challenge because when electricity comes down to it, it’s a little bit harder to manage.”

Hayden says that even regional water systems like Canyon Lake Regional are harder to get now. She said that as water gets pumped from the stations, it has to move over hills and valleys, which all require electricity, which has not been extremely stable across the state in the past few days.

“Even some of the water that we’re receiving from Canyon Lake... we’re getting it. But maybe that’s being affected by electricity and maybe it’s having more challenges going over altitude differences,” Hayden said. “Long story short, it’s a really complex system. We do have backups, but electricity brownouts are making it even more complicated.”

Gina Lopez, a Bexar County resident, said she has been trying to contact SAWS officials about her service being out since Monday with no results. She said she did everything to protect her property and exposed pipes.

“I think the outage for the SAWS pumps went out and as a result, they did not turn our water back on,” Lopez told KSAT in an email.

Lopez said her family’s electricity and water had been off for more than 12 hours in the last two days. She said she thought it was “unacceptable” that she could not report a service outage to a SAWS representative in that time.

Watch: Limited water supply in SA due to scarce electricity, residents urged to be patient

According to Hayden, customers cannot currently lookup what service is like in their area in real-time. SAWS does not have a water outage map like CPS Energy does for power outages.

“It’s a challenge,” Hayden said. “It’s hard to report moment to moment like CPS does. We don’t have those kinds of funds, but we are working on it all night long.”

Hayden said that she was aware of issues specifically affecting South San Antonio and South Bexar County residents and that some hotels had been affected near the Market Street pump station. She said that service outages plaguing city, county residents and tourists in the area are due, in part, to altitude or power-related issues.

When the temperatures warm up, SAWS officials say it’s important to check the plumbing in areas that might have frozen. Click here for more information on how to do that.

You can follow a few simple tips to help better protect your property.

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About the Author:

Jakob Rodriguez is a digital journalist at KSAT 12. He's a graduate of Texas State University, where he served as the editor-in-chief of the student-run newspaper, The University Star.