The San Antonio Water System (SAWS) is the poster child for conserving its fresh water reserves. Since 1984 the city’s population grew 65% to more than 1.3 million people. Yet SAWS is holding the line on the amount of water it pumps from the Edwards Aquifer and other lesser sources to the 1984 level.
Because SAWS, which serves approximately 1 million people, including 326,000 water customers, expects continued growth and development for San Antonio, it aggressively pursues a variety of water conservation policies.
Karen Guz, director of conservation SAWS, spoke at the Rain Bird Intelligent Use of Water Summit State of the Union in Washington D.C. last week. She said that SAWS takes a 3-pronged approach to driving water conservation: 1.) financial incentives, including rebates, 2.) reasonable regulations and 3.) education and outreach. Much of the water system's efforts are aimed at landscape irrigation that, of course, is greatest when water supplies are most stressed.
She said that about 20% of property owners irrigate their landscapes and SAWS doesn't feel it's fair that the other 80% of water users must share in the cost of finding and developing new sources of water to meet peak demand caused by lawn watering.
I thought about Karen’s presentation at the IUOW Summit as I skimmed a recent Forbes piece, “America’s 10 Thirstiest Cities.” San Antonio appeared as the nation’s third thirstiest city.
Top 10 lists are usually entertaining if not particularly enlightening. This list of thirsty cities included a couple of surprises (Honolulu and Portland, OR), and left off at least two that probably should be on the list (Atlanta and Tampa?).
The 10 thirsty cities, in order: 1.) Los Angeles, 2.) San Diego, 3.) San Antonio, 4.) Honolulu, 5.) Bakersfield, CA, 6.) Phoenix, 7.) Portland, OR, 8.) Sacramento, 9.) Las Vegas, 10.) Tucson. — Ron Hall