Aquifer authority adopts drought rules
By Christopher Anderson
San Antonio Express-News
Web Posted : 11/13/2002 12:00 AM
The Edwards Aquifer Authority board late Tuesday adopted permanent drought rules that require pumpers to increasingly limit their withdrawals whenever the level of the Edwards Aquifer drops sharply and places endangered species at risk.
The authority adopted drought restrictions on an emergency basis in 2000 and was poised to do so again this summer until tremendous rains rapidly replenished the aquifer.
Pumpers, including cities such as San Antonio, now will be required to reduce their water usage by 5 percent whenever a Stage 1 drought is declared and by an additional 5 percent for each of the next two drought stages.
Under Stage 4 — the most severe — pumpers will have to reduce their use of aquifer water by 23 percent.
The cutbacks are meant to ensure spring flows in New Braunfels and San Marcos do not diminish to the point at which federally protected species perish.
Greg Ellis, the authority's general manager, said the principal difference between the rules adopted Tuesday and the restrictions in place two years ago is that the board will leave it wholly up to cities and other pumpers how to achieve the required reductions.
"Before, we had pretty well proposed what people had to do," Ellis said.
"We told them they had to cut back on lawn watering. We told them they had to close at certain hours of business. Now, this is entirely up to whoever is pumping as to how they achieve that cutback."
Stage 4 drought restrictions are to be eliminated in 2008, when the overall amount of water that can be pumped out of the aquifer is lowered from the present amount of 450,000 acre feet a year to 400,000 acre feet in order to comply with state law.
"It's no longer necessary," Ellis said.
An acre-foot is equal to about 326,000 gallons and is considered enough water to meet the needs of two families of four for a year.
If the Texas Legislature decides to allow 500,000 acre feet of water to be taken out of the aquifer each year — as desired by some board members — then there would be three stages of drought restrictions requiring cutbacks of 15 percent, 20 percent and 30 percent.