Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

San Marcos changes its water restriction policy for the first time in nearly 10 years

Water is low in the San Marcos Rivers in 2022 due to a prolonged drought.
Patricia Lim
KUT News
Water is low in the San Marcos River in 2022 due to a prolonged drought.

The San Marcos City Council voted this week to change the city’s water restrictions during times of drought. The last time these rules were updated was in 2015. Since then, the region has experienced rapid population growth and increased water demand.

What’s changed?

The old restrictions reflected how much water was available locally. The new restrictions will reflect water levels across all the city’s water sources. This includes local sources like the Edwards Aquifer and some that stretch farther out like the Carrizo-Wilcox Aquifer.

“It doesn't necessarily mean we're using less Edwards water,” Tyler Hjorth, director of utilities for San Marcos, said Tuesday in a presentation to City Council members. He said water from the Edwards Aquifer is also two to five times cheaper than other sources.

Virginia Parker, executive director of the San Marcos River Foundation, said she’s afraid looking at the total water available may mislead residents about the seriousness of the region's drought conditions.

She said things may look better than they actually are as local water sources struggle to keep up with demand.

“The most representative drought measure would be what's going on underneath our feet,” she said.

Parker said she commends the city for exploring other water options, but the new drought measurement could also pose a problem for those who have private wells and rely solely on the local aquifer for their water.

“This has happened all over Texas: Municipalities go somewhere else in the state for their drinking water,” she said. “And then local wells around that resource end up going dry because that source is being pumped at a rate that it's not used to.”

The new ordinance also reduces the number of water restriction stages from five to three. Hjorth said that allows greater differences between the stages.

“[The previous stage system] really didn’t make sense for our citizens, and it was hard for them to track,” he said.

City of San Marcos

Stage 1 would be triggered when the city spends about 70% of available daily water for seven days in a row. Stage 2 would begin at 75% and Stage 3 at 80%.

Getting the word out

Getting residents to comply with water restrictions has been tricky in the past. Previously, the city has focused on educating residents on conservation rather than issuing fines. At Tuesday’s meeting, Hjorth said the city will need to do more to get everyone up to speed on the changes.

“It's probably overdue for us to have a pretty heavy campaign on educating, particularly if you change to three stages instead of the five,” he said. “Even the folks that were dialed in on that need to be reeducated.”

The new restrictions went into effect after Tuesday’s meeting.

Maya Fawaz is KUT's Hays County reporter. Got a tip? Email her at Follow her on Twitter @mayagfawaz.
Related Content