SAWS Watering Rules Review

San Antonio’s conservation ordinance helps conserve and extend our water resources. It prohibits water waste and imposes watering rules when the Edwards Aquifer level drops.

To make San Antonio’s conservation ordinance more effective, efficient, and fair, SAWS has adopted reasonable adjustments to our drought plan – to save water now and reduce the chance of stricter rules in the future.

2024 watering rules changes were approved by SAWS Board of Trustees, May 23 and City Council June 20.

Table with Watering Rules by drought stage.

Top 5 things you Need to know:

While landscape watering rules have helped us weather droughts in the past, our per-person water use has been inching higher. That’s why SAWS is adopting reasonable adjustments to our drought plan – to save water now and reduce the chance of stricter rules in the future.

New rules are in effect. Here are five things you need to know.

SAWS watering hours have been the same for years. So why change now? One reason is many people have asked for more time to water early in the morning.

Drought Stage Watering Days Watering Times
Year Round Any day midnight – 10 a.m.
9 p.m. – midnight
Stage 1 Once a week on your day midnight – 10 a.m.
9 p.m. – midnight
Stage 2 Once a week on your day 5 a.m. – 10 a.m.
9 p.m. – midnight
Stage 3 Once a week on your day 5 a.m. – 10 a.m.
9 p.m. – midnight
Stage 4 Once EVERY OTHER week 5 a.m. – 10 a.m.
9 p.m. – midnight

The evening watering hours are also a time of peak power demand. CPS Energy has asked energy-intensive customers like SAWS to help shift power use later. (Note: Hose-end sprinkler users can request a variance from SAWS to water earlier.)

To make drought rule enforcement more fair, SAWS will no longer issue municipal court citations. Instead, a water waste non-compliance charge will  appear on the customer’s bill. This means the rules will apply to all SAWS customers, not just those inside San Antonio city limits.

The first charge for a single family or small commercial site will be $137. This fee can be waived by taking a one-hour course online. Subsequent charges are higher to discourage repeat violations. Charges will also be higher for high use commercial irrigation customers.

As before, violations will need to be witnessed and documented in-person by SAWS-trained staff. On request, the customer can review the evidence and, if desired, appeal the enforcement decision to a Board-appointed committee of non-SAWS employees.


In deeper stages of drought, a new surcharge will encourage both residential and commercial customers with very high outdoor use to conserve. Unlike previous Stage 3 twice-a-month watering restriction, the surcharge will only affect the top 5% of water users.

For single family accounts, the Stage 3 surcharge of $10.37 per thousand gallons will take effect for water use above 20,000 gallon a month. In Stage 4, that threshold drops to 12,000 gallons. Twice-a-month watering may still be initiated if needed in Stage 4.

Commercial irrigation surcharge rates will vary based on water use and meter size.

Even though drip irrigation makes more efficient use of water than spray nozzles, the amount of water used per hour tends to be about
the same for both.

Drought Stage Drip Irrigation Days
1 Mon/Wed/Fri
2 & 3 Mon/Fri
4 Fri

The revised rules for drip will help save more water by better aligning the scheduled watering hours with the severity of the drought stage. Watering hours will be the same times as spray in each stage.

The lack of inspections for newly installed irrigation systems means state standards are not always followed. And systems that are poorly
constructed will continue to waste water for years to come.

To fill this gap, SAWS will begin reviewing irrigation plans prior to construction, and then inspecting the installed system for proper
operation before it is approved.


Aug. to Oct. 2023 (COMPLETED)

Outreach on proposals (stakeholders, cities, community)
Draft updated Utility Service Regulations

November 2023 (COMPLETED)

Draft ordinance to support rates for enforcement

May 23, 2024 (APPROVED)

SAWS board vote on Utility Service regulations

June 12, 2024

B session with San Antonio City Council

June 20, 2024 (APPROVED)

City Council consideration of rates ordinance for enforcement.



To request a presentation for your group please email us at

Presentation & Meeting Videos

Watch our VP of Conservation, Karen Guz, explain each of the four key proposed changes. Find more information regarding the proposed changes in this short video series.

watering rules review & APPROVED changes

Click the link below to download or view a one-page overview of the approved changes. You can also see a list of the FAQs by clicking that link.

Click each button to see the titled documents:

A draft Water Conservation Plan including the adopted drought changes was posted on May 6 and public comments were solicited for the Plan through May 31, 2024. We’re now addressing comments from the community and the SAWS Board to further update and finalize the Plan. The updated 2024 Plan will be available in summer of 2024.

Survey is now closed. We appreciate your input..