'Water Bank,' new water sources make Aquifer less critical to city's water needs
The level of the Edwards Aquifer is plummeting amid continued hot, dry weather and higher than usual usage by Medina and Uvalde County farmers, but the San Antonio Water System says it does not anticipate having to impose vastly more stringent Stage Three water restrictions, 1200 WOAI news has learned.
"We don't think at this point that we will need to go into Stage Three for the City of San Antonio in the near future," Anne Hayden of SAWS told 1200 WOAI news.
She says several factors are allowing SAWS to avoid the vastly more restrictive Stage Three rationing, which limits lawn watering to once every two weeks and imposes other restrictions on water usage by commercial and industrial enterprises.
She says SAWS is withdrawing 20 million gallons of water per day from the Aquifer Storage and Recovery Facility, a massive underground cavern which is replenished during rainy periods with enough water to make up a medium sized lake. She says the facility currently holds billions of gallons of water, and can sustain San Antonio's emergency water needs during any extended drought.
She says over the past several years, SAWS has also acquired water from sources other than the Aquifer, which means the restrictions placed on the Aquifer by federal courts and the state legislature no longer loom as large in the city's water needs.
"The Carrizo (Aquifer), Canyon Lake, the Trinity (Aquifer), at this point we are not pulling water from Medina Lake, but we have a good variety of water, and San Antonio is actually doing very well right now on water use," she said.
She says over the past twenty years of increasing water restrictions, residents and other water users have implemented many types of measures that limit water use, and the region's entire daily water consumption is down significantly since the 1980s, despite a large increase in population.
The level of the Aquifer is now lower than it was at this time last year, despite the fact that in August of 2011 the entire state was in the middle of an historic drought, and this year, despite the recent dry conditions, we still have a rain surplus for the entire year.
Hayden says that is due to the drought which is damaging the grain crop in the Midwest. She says Texas farmers are trying to take advantage of those higher grain prices, largely to try to make up for losses they suffered last year.
"Some farmers here are planting additional crops to make the most of those increased prices," she said. "So we are seeing much more of a drain to the west."