Energy and Environment Reporting for Texas

As Edwards Aquifer Drops, San Antonio Faces Severe Water Restrictions

Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

San Antonio may have to go into Stage 3 water restrictions soon.

Water levels are falling rapidly in the Edwards Aquifer in San Antonio, the primary source of water for municipal users in the region. In just two weeks, the levels have dropped 5 feet, and are projected to drop further. Victor Murphy, the Climate Program Manager for the National Weather Service Southern Region, says there’s even more cause for concern than last year.

“I would say by this weekend or by early next week, the level of the J-17 will be lower this year than last year,” Murphy says. “Not good.” The J-17 is a measurement of water pressure at a test well in San Antonio. If water levels continue to drop, the San Antonio Water System (SAWS) may need to implement stricter water restrictions.

“At 640 feet, that’s when SAWS kicks in their Stage 3 water restrictions,” Murphy said. “To my knowledge, they’ve never had to implement that.”

As of this morning, the well is reading 644.6 feet. “With little to no rain in the forecast over the next week and with triple digit temps looming on the horizon early next week, this level should continue to drop,” Murphy says. San Antonio has already seen more rainfall this year than all of last year combined, with above-average rainfall in May, but the levels continue to drop.

Some of the limits for San Antonio under Stage 3 water restrictions? Lawn and landscape watering with sprinklers is allowed only ever other week, and only early in the morning and late at night. Watering with a handheld hose would still be allowed at any time. Fountains, waterfalls and other water features would be prohibited, and all non-public swimming pools would have to have a quarter of their surface covered when not in use. And if you happened to be staying in a hotel in San Antonio, they’d only be allowed to change your sheets and towels every three nights.

The lowest the well went last year (one of San Antonio’s driest years on record) was 639.9 feet, exactly one year ago today. But a deluge of rain that day pushed levels in the Aquifer back above the 640-foot mark.

You can learn more about the history of the drought at our interactive web page, Dried Out: Confronting the Texas Drought, and share your thoughts on Twitter with the hashtag #txwater. 

And on Friday at 3 p.m., KUT 90.5 FM will air a one-hour documentary on the drought, hosted by Texas Monthly editor Jake Silverstein and produced by KUT News and StateImpact Texas. The program will air again at 7 p.m. on Monday, and you’ll also be able to hear the entire documentary here and on other public radio stations throughout the state.
Robb Jacobson is an intern with StateImpact Texas.


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