BexarMet Demand Management Plan


By
Nathan Riggs
BexarMet Water Efficiency Manager

 

The summer of 2006 lives in infamy in the minds of Stone Oak residents as well as BexarMet employees who worked to deal with the landscape watering restrictions and prohibitions issued between June and August of 2006.  A lot has changed in the months since, including plans for additional water and storage facilities for the BexarMet water system that includes Stone Oak, Sonterra, Greystone, Hill Country Village and Hollywood Park.

 

Undoubtedly the biggest villain that exacerbated the water shortages last summer was the tremendous demand placed on the system by automatic sprinkler systems.  Sprinkler systems are responsible for 30% to 50% or more of the total water bill during the summer months, and they represent the greatest strain and source of pressure drain on the system.  While elevation does play a role in the amount of pressure available in the system (higher elevations in Stone Oak have more episodes of lower pressure due to elevation and portions of the current water system infrastructure).  This article is not to delve into those problems, but to inform you, the customer, about the changes BexarMet has made to try and avoid some of the early restrictions that were put in place last summer.  The BexarMet Demand Management Plan provides guidelines for enacting water use restrictions where water shortages due to water demand greater than capacity, drought or water emergencies have occurred.  Last summer, BexarMet simply did not have procedures to follow and it caused inconsistencies and problems with communication and implementation.

 

On March 6, 2007, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) notified BexarMet the 2007 Demand Plan (Plan) had been approved.  TCEQ requires all water utilities with at least 3,300 connections and that use at least 1,000 acre-feet of surface water to submit a drought contingency plan every five years.  The Plan incorporates drought contingency and water conservation measures together in the required format.  Let’s look at the Plan and how it can be used as a tool to protect water supplies as intended.

 

The Plan contains four levels of awareness and water conditions:  1) Year-round water conservation; 2) Level 1 – Mild Drought/Water Shortage Conditions; 3) Level 2 – Chronic Drought/Water Shortage Conditions; and, 4) Level 3 – Emergency Drought/Water Shortage Conditions.  Each of these levels contains water use guidelines very similar to or identical to the Edwards Aquifer Critical Period Stage restrictions, except that there are triggering mechanisms in place that are tied to water conditions within the system and not tied to aquifer levels.  As with all water plans in the San Antonio region, if the Edwards Aquifer authority or another regulatory body declares water restrictions, they take precedent over our drought plan.  Let’s look at some specific information for each of the Plan levels.  See the tables at the end of this article for information on all of the water use levels in the Plan.

 

The most important thing to note about the Plan is that there are no complete lawn watering prohibitions included in any of the levels.  This was probably the most contentious point about last year’s watering restrictions.  The most restrictive lawn watering requirements in the new Plan are found in Level 3 (Emergency Conditions) where all watering with sprinklers, drip irrigation and soaker hoses is prohibited, but hand watering is allowed from 3am to 8am and 8pm to 11:59pm any day on weekdays.  Soaker hoses in Level 3 will be only allowed for use around foundations to reduce the possibility of problems due to dry conditions.

 

If conditions are normal and there are no restrictions in place, then the year-round conservation section of the Plan is in effect.  This basically states that sprinklers are not allowed between 10am and 8pm year round, which mirrors the current City of San Antonio water ordinance and helps to reduce water waste due to evaporation.  Power washing is allowed with some provisions as well as washing your car at home any time.  As always, water waste is prohibited, which includes allowing water to overflow off of your property due to unrepaired leaks, excessive lawn watering (or maladjusted sprinklers), car washing or power washing.

 

Level 1 of the Plan, identified as Mild Water Shortage or Drought Conditions, takes effect based on triggering criteria, specifically the ratio of demand to production capability in the system.  If demand exceeds 75% of the production capability of the system for three consecutive days, the Level 1 portion of the Plan may be activated.  Other conditions such as slower-than-normal storage tank recovery during off-peak hours or availability of water supply may also be considered.  Water use guidelines under Level 1 require a 5% reduction in overall water use as well as places a once per week watering schedule into effect based on the last digit of the address.  Hand watering will be allowed any time on any day.  Irrigation variances will be required for new landscapes installed during Level 1 conditions.  Once Level 1 initiation conditions have ceased to exist, year-round conservation conditions will return.

 

Level 2 of the Plan, identified as Chronic Water Shortage or Drought Conditions, takes effect when demand in the system exceeds 85% of the production capability of the system for three consecutive days.  Additional monitoring of storage tank recovery and productive ability of water sources will also have an effect on the activation of Level 2 conditions.  Level 2 guidelines call for a 10% reduction in overall water use and a once per week watering schedule with tighter hours for irrigation.  Watering hours under Level 2 are 3am to 8am or 8pm to 10pm once per week for sprinklers, while hand watering is allowed any day during Level 2 hours only.  New landscapes are discouraged while Level 2 conditions are in place, but irrigation variance applications for new landscapes will be available.  Landscapes installed are recommended to contain a high level of water efficient materials pertinent to the region.  Once Level 2 initiation conditions have ceased to exist, Level 1 conditions will take effect.

 

Level 3 of the Plan will be implemented during Emergency Water Shortage or Drought Conditions.  If demand exceeds 95% of production capacity for three consecutive days, or if there is a failure of a major water system component such as pump, transmission line or storage system that prevents the system from meeting demand, or if a boil water notice is required due to loss of system pressure, dewatering of mains, or contamination due to outside sources such as floods or natural disasters, Level 3 will be activated.  Level 3 guidelines require a reduction of 15% in overall water use as well as limiting landscape watering to hand only on weekdays from 3am to 8am and 8pm to 11:59pm.  Watering with sprinklers, soaker hoses and drip irrigation will not be permitted until Level 2 conditions return, but you will be able to water the landscape by hand to keep it alive.  The priority for water use under Level 3 is for domestic use and fire protection.  Variance applications for new landscapes under Level 3 conditions will not be approved until Level 2 conditions return.  Once Level 3 initiation conditions have ceased to exist, Level 2 conditions will take effect.

 

The methods for notification about water restrictions will also be modified.  Sending notifications by mail and phone are expensive and may not inform everyone of what’s happening in a timely manner.  Suggested changes to the process include notification via email, special web page sections and/or adding a daily mention in the weather section of the newspaper.

 

Rainfall will help ease concerns immensely, but the fact remains that until additional water sources and storage (in process) are added to the system, sprinkler systems will continue to have an adverse affect on pressure and place an excessive demand on the system.  Make sure your sprinkler system is operating as efficiently as possible and not running immense amounts of water off of your property.  If you haven’t done so, take advantage of the $15 BexarMet Sprinkler Saver Rebate program available at www.bexarmet.org/water_eff/rebates.htm.  You can get a $15 rebate on your water bill for having your sprinkler system inspected and adjusted by a licensed landscape irrigator.

 

BexarMet is working very hard to make sure that your water service and quality is at the level you expect and deserve.

 

If you would like a presentation on the 2007 Demand Plan or other water efficiency-related topics for your community group or neighborhood association, please contact the BexarMet Water Efficiency Department at (210) 357-5705.

 

Summary Information Tables for Demand Management Plan Levels

Year Round Conservation simply outlines that water waste is prohibited and that watering with sprinklers or automatic irrigation is limited to the hours of 8pm to 10am daily.  Washing your car at home is permitted any day during normal watering hours and power washing is permitted as long as the wash water does not leave the premises.  As long as there are no aquifer restrictions or Demand Plan Levels in effect, Year Round Conservation should be followed.

Level 1 – Mild Water Shortage/Drought Conditions

Trigger Restrictions
•         System demand exceeds 75% of system capacity for 3 consecutive days;
•         Storage levels not recovering adequately causing concern for water pressure;
•         Surface water or aquifer levels low enough to cause concern for future supply;
•         Governing bodies of water sources issue restrictions of their own.
•         Reduce overall water use by 5%;
•         Once per week watering based on address;
•         Power washing prohibited;
•         Car washing at home only on watering day;
•         Aesthetic water features prohibited;
•         Pools covered at least 25% when unused;
•         Variances required for new landscapes;
•         Reduce hydrant flushing and use.

 

Level 2 – Chronic Water Shortage/Drought Conditions

Trigger
Restrictions
•         System demand exceeds 85% of system capacity for 3 consecutive days;
•         Storage levels not recovering adequately causing concern for water pressure;
•         Surface water or aquifer levels low enough to cause concern for future supply;
•         Governing bodies of water sources issue restrictions of their own.
•         Level 1 restrictions plus the following modifications:
•         Reduce overall water use by 10%;
•         Watering schedule identical to Stage 2 of EAA;
•         30% of water for filling new or existing pools must come from non-BexarMet source;
•         Variances required for new landscapes;
•         Emergency fire hydrant flushing allowed.

 

Level 3 – Emergency Water Shortage/Drought Conditions

Trigger
Restrictions
•         System demand exceeds 95% of system capacity for 3 consecutive days;
•         Storage levels not recovering adequately causing concern for water pressure;
•         Surface water or aquifer levels low enough to cause concern for inability to provide future supply;
•         Boil water notice required for system due to dewatering of water mains or contamination from outside sources;
•         Failure of major water supply or transmission infrastructure preventing system from meeting demand;
•         Governing bodies of water sources issue restrictions of their own.
•         Level 2 restrictions plus the following modifications:
•         Reduce overall water use by 15%;
•         Sprinkler irrigation, including drip irrigation, prohibited;
•         Hand watering permitted from 3am to 8am or 8pm to 11:59pm on weekdays;
•         100% of water for filling or replenishing new or existing pools must come from non-BexarMet source;
•         Variances will not be issued for new landscapes until Level 3 is rescinded;
•         Soaker hose use around foundations only;
•         Emergency fire hydrant flushing allowed.