When homeowners in the area find out there are irrigation restrictions, one of their first questions is, “When can you water your lawn in San Antonio?”
The answer depends on the stage of restrictions and how you irrigate at your home. Let’s take a closer look at everything you need to know as a local.
The Edwards Aquifer
How does the local San Antonio government decide on restrictions for water use? It’s a bit more complicated than just looking at the weather. Instead, the city watches its aquifer, called the Edwards Aquifer. An aquifer is a huge section of groundwater that can be pumped up to supply a city with water for purification and use.
The water in an aquifer can move, drain and be filled by precipitation over time. But if too much water is used too quickly, it can sink to dangerously low levels, which is very bad for the pumps and wells used to bring that water to the surface.
Specialists constantly monitor the water level in the Edwards Aquifer. When it drops to certain average points over a period of 10 days, the city enforces specific stages of water restriction with clear regulations. There are four stages in total. You can check the current status of the Edwards Aquifer at any time right here. The minimum water level in 2020 never went below 653 feet.
Stage 1 Water Restrictions in San Antonio
Aquifer level: 660 feet
The stage one water restrictions in San Antonio include a variety of rules about how water is used for specific tasks. For private users and homes, the most important rules are these:
- Water waste (letting excess water run into a ditch or gutter, or ignoring a leak) is prohibited.
- Watering with any type of irrigation system, including a single sprinkler or soaker hose, is allowed one day per week, and only before 11 am and after 7 pm, to help prevent evaporation from the sunlight. Watering days are typically assigned to homes based on their address. The assigned watering day ends strictly at midnight, and no over-night water is allowed.
- If you are watering directly by hand, with a hose, bucket or watering can, this is allowed at any time. This makes it a lot easier to keep small lawns and gardens alive.
- You are not allowed to wash “impervious covers” which basically means any surface the water will run off of, including driveways and sidewalks.
- If you are washing your car, you can only do it once per week on Saturday or Sunday, while being careful to conserve water.
- All residential water fountains can be operated (whereas commercial fountains have a more complicated set of rules that don’t apply).
Stage 2 Water Restrictions in San Antonio
Aquifer level: 650 feet
Stage 2 rules are cumulative with Stage 1, which means all the previous rules still apply, but some regulations are stricter or have additional requirements. Note that San Antonio did not reach Stage 2 levels at all during 2020, although it did come close. Important points for those planning out their watering schedules include:
- Landscape watering rules remain largely the same, with any type of irrigation device limited to use on a designated water day once a week.
- Hours for irrigation are stricter to prevent evaporation, and homeowners can only water from 7 am to 11 am and from 7 pm to 11 pm on their assigned days.
- While watering manually with a hose is still allowed whenever you want, drip irrigation and water via bucket is restricted to from 7 am to 11 am and from 7 pm to 11 pm; however, it is allowed any day.
Stage 3 Water Restrictions in San Antonio
Aquifer level: 640 feet
Again, these rules are cumulative. At stage 3, San Antonio watering days become significantly stricter in a couple of important ways:
- Landscape water through an irrigation device is only allowed on assigned days every other week, instead of every week, and is still restricted to between 7 am and 11 am and between 7 pm and 11 pm.
- Water with drip irrigation is only allowed on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and only between 7 am and 11 am and between 7 pm and 11 pm.
- Manual watering with a hand-held hose is still allowed without restriction.
Stage 4 Water Restrictions in San Antonio
Aquifer level: Insufficient Water for Demand
Stage 4 restrictions go into effect when all previous restrictions are being followed, but currently available water is not enough to meet current customer demand, so the city has more leeway in implementing it.
At Stage 4, there are no additional physical restrictions for landscape and lawn watering. But – and it’s a big one – a fee is added to all water used for irrigation purposes. This surface is assessed and applied broadly throughout the city and will show up on your water bill. The new surface will last at least one month, and if the Stage 4 restriction continues, it will apply to the next month as well, even if the restriction is lessened during that month.
During Stage 4, the City Council may add additional limitations for water use, but these are exceptions and typically announced very clearly in the news.
Year-Round San Antonio Water Restrictions
If no restrictions have been activated by the city, then you can water your lawn on any day before 11 am or after 7 pm with any method you prefer. Wasting water outright is still prohibited.
Typically, restrictions are lifted after the aquifer has been above the target level for 15 days.
When water is in short supply in San Antonio, TX, it’s best to make sure your pipes and faucets aren’t leaking. Any part of your home that might be wasting water can lead to big costs. If you have any questions about leaking pipes, water waste and how to best control your irrigation system, Mr. Plumber will be glad to help.