SAWS forced to leave low-priority water main breaks spilling water for weeks at a time

Utility officials say SAWS is dealing with record-breaking year of water main breaks

The unprecedented year of water main breaks has wait times for repairs taking longer than what SAWS would like

SAN ANTONIO – The San Antonio Water System is dealing with a record-breaking year of water main breaks. The unprecedented year has wait times for repairs taking longer than what customers would like.

Since the start of 2022, SAWS has had more than 2,200. The utility blames extreme heat and drought for the increase.

Residents who have been affected are reaching a breaking point themselves, waiting for water in their area to stop spilling through their streets.

“This has been here wasting thousands of gallons. And it’s OK? That’s OK, just wait a week, just wait another week,” said Jesse Salinas, who lives in the Crownwood subdivision near Converse.

His neighbor down the street, Evette Davila, added, “You’ll call (SAWS), and it’s, ‘We’re going to get to it. We’ll be there soon. It’s on the list.’ And it’s just one story after another.”

Salinas said a break in front of his home has been spewing water across his driveway and down his street for three to four weeks. The stream of water goes down Shallow Ridge Road, past Davila’s home and toward the neighborhood mailbox.

The residents say that mailbox had water gushing near it in early August before SAWS repaired it.

“It was rumbling by the mailboxes. Over here, it’s still not like that, but it’s a constant flow,” said Davila.

Salinas said, “If it was 8 feet in, away from the meters, they would be giving me hell that I needed to fix that a long time ago.”

SAWS communications manager Anne Hayden said the utility currently has 166 active water main breaks. Only 10 of those are considered high-priority level 1 and level 2. The rest fall to level 3 or 4.

Hayden admits that some lower-level calls are experiencing wait times of up to 2 weeks.

“We’re dealing with it, but we’re not fixing them as quickly as we’d like. We’ve got contractors going on -- we have our crews going on that are working 24/7,” Hayden said.

She said the high-priority calls that need immediate attention include breaks that affect water supply and pressure and could cause significant damage to roadways or impact hospitals and schools.

Hayden said she understood frustrations were growing but asked residents to be patient and continue calling in about issues.

SAWS did not have data on how much water had been wasted at this time. As some breaks are going on weeks of consistently pumping out water, she said it’s more than SAWS would like.

Hayden added that the water main breaks this year will not affect residents’ water bills.

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About the Authors:

John Paul Barajas is a reporter at KSAT 12. Previously, he worked at KRGV 5 in the Rio Grande Valley. He has a degree from the University of Houston. In his free time, he likes to get a workout in, spend time on the water and check out good eats and drinks.

Joe Arredondo is a photojournalist at KSAT 12.