Despite a rapidly plummeting Edwards Aquifer which is prompting unprecedented water restrictions in many cities, the San Antonio Water System says it is committed to avoiding declared Stage Three restrictions for the first time ever, 1200 WOAI news reports.
Instead, it's going to the bank.
SAWS spokeswoman Anne Hayden says the water utility has begun withdrawing 15 to 18 million gallons of water a day from what is known as the Twin Oaks Aquifer Storage Facility.
That is an underground reservoir of water that utilizes the Carrizo Aquifer southeast of San Antonio. The site currently holds about 83,000 acre feet of water, or about 25 billion gallons. It is the third largest aquifer storage and recovery facility in the country. During rainy years, when less water is being used, SAWS is able to save water there.
SAWS has the capacity to withdraw up to 60 million gallons per day from the ASF.
"Even if we need to continue to stay in the drought and deal with drought restrictions, we are okay for the near future," Hayden said.
The ASR was opened in 2004, and since then it has become a major component of the city's effort to become less dependent on the Edwards Aquifer. It has been tapped several times, especially during droughts in the past three years.
There is enough water in the ASR for SAWS to continue withdrawing 18 million gallons a day, every day, for the coming four years.
"We're talking about billions of gallons of water that we have in the past been able to store in this underground reservoir," she said.
The Aquifer level today is roughly 637 feet, a near record low for the last day of July, evidence of three years of serous drought across Texas.
Hayden points out that the SAWS ASR and other alternative water use facilities has placed San Antonio in a much better position that other cities. Rapidly drying surface water facilities in central and north Texas which have prompted major water use cut backs and have been devastating to agriculture.
She points out that conservation is also a very important part of the city's water plan, and the decision not to declare Stage Three restrictions, like took place in New Braunfels last week, is largely predicated on homeowners continuing to conserve.
The average San Antonio resident uses 130 gallons of water per day. That is down from more than 250 gallons per day back in the 1990s.
Stage Two restrictions now in place allow for lawn watering with a sprinkler only on one designated day per week, and only between the hours of 7AM and 11AM and 7PM and 11PM.
Stage Three would cut that to watering only twice a month, and would also mean significantly more serious cutbacks for business and industrial users.
In fact, business groups are in the forefront of pushing for alternatives like the ASR. They say continuing water use cutbacks and confusing changes of watering rules has begun to make new employers think twice about creating jobs in San Antonio.
In fact, State Rep. Lyle Larson says economic development officials in water-rich 'rust bucket' states like Illinois and Wisconsin are beginning to use Texas' drought conditions to convince job creators from moving their operations to the Lone Star State, with a certain amount of success.