SAWS citations quadruple after water company increases drought patrols

Citations for water violations run an average of $137, SAWS official says

Generic photo of a sprinkler. (Pixabay)

SAN ANTONIO – San Antonio has been under stage 2 watering restrictions since April of 2022 but the number of citations issued to customers found to be in violation of the watering rules has quadrupled in recent months.

KSAT reached out to SAWS regarding citations for watering violations and to get more information about watering times.

During Stage 2, watering with a sprinkler, irrigation system or soaker hose is allowed only between 7-11 a.m. and 7-11 p.m. on your designated day which is determined by the last digit of your address. Violators of the watering restrictions will be fined.

“Every citation goes to municipal court and customers have the option to pay online or visit municipal court. The cost is about $137, but the amount is at the judge’s discretion,” SAWS spokesperson Anne Hayden told KSAT via email. “People can contest a citation. It’s like contesting a traffic ticket.”

Hayden said she didn’t have any data available regarding the number of citations that are upheld versus overturned.

She also provided the following citation information for the past 12 months:

MonthNumber of Citations
September 2022814
October 2022744
November 2022436
December 2022275
January 2023374
February 2023297
March 2023567
April 2023460
May 2023413
June 20231,091
July 20232,127
August 20231,878
September 2023 (through Sept. 18)523

Hayden noted that the dramatic increase in citations starting in June 2023 is the result of SAWS adding trained staff from other departments to assist with drought patrols.

“Most customers who receive a citation do not receive another one, and we do see a decrease in water use after a citation for residential customers, indicating that citations are effective at getting residential customers to reduce their use,” she said.

The last time San Antonio changed its conservation ordinance was in 2014 but water trends have shifted in the last decade with SAWS previously citing irrigation systems, mainly on newer homes, as an additional load on the city’s water system.

“Before the last drought ordinance change, they were different, starting earlier in the morning, but we had complaints from those using hose-end sprinklers that moving those around in the yard was hazardous before down,” SAWS spokesperson Anne Hayden told KSAT via email. “The current hours were based on feedback from the public. We are currently in the process of seeking feedback for proposed new changes to the drought ordinance.”

KSAT previously reported that SAWS is considering changing the enforcement of water rule violations.

Anyone who wants to take a SAWS survey to lend their voice on upcoming proposed changes can do so at WateringRules.com.

Editor’s note: The video attached to this article is from a previous report.

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About the Author:

Mary Claire Patton has been a journalist with KSAT 12 since 2015. She has reported on several high-profile stories during her career at KSAT and specializes in trending news and things to do around Texas and San Antonio.