San Marcos Director of Public Services Tom Taggart discusses the possibility of an extra law watering day with the city council. Photo by Andy Sevilla.
By ANDY SEVILLA
The San Marcos City Council turned back a second reading adjusting Stage 2 watering restrictions Tuesday night, meaning city residents are left to one designated watering day per week without options.
After the council voted, 5-2 (Councilmembers John Thomaides and Gaylord Bose objecting) on a June first reading to allow an optional weekend day for residents missing their designated weekdays, it tabled a second reading to work out a variance process. But council took up the matter again last Tuesday night with a 4-3 vote opposing options.
Councilmembers Thomaides, Bose, Chris Jones and Fred Terry went against a reconfigured measure that would have allowed residents to apply for variances to provide two days per week with the proviso that residents use only one. Thomaides insisted that any such variance process should insist that residents pick one day per week and be held to it.
Mayor Susan Narvaiz was the most vocal of the councilmembers supporting a change, saying the legislation would provide residents with options. Councilmembers supporting Narvaiz said residents would still only water on one day per week.
To illustrate the difference, suppose someone’s street address number ends with a “0,” meaning that resident is held to watering on Monday. Under the proposed legislation, that resident could go to the city asking for an optional day, a Saturday, for example. Thomaides said that resident should decide if her day is going to be Monday or Saturday, and he held to that choice. Supporters of the proposal said the resident seeking that variance should be given a choice from week to week between Monday or Saturday.
Tom Taggart, director of public services, said the ordinance would allow for residents to submit written requests for variances, giving them options of watering during their scheduled watering days during the week, or taking advantage of the optional watering day designated on weekends. Ultimately, Taggart said, it would be up to him whether enough “justifiable” evidence was presented warranting an additional watering day.
Among the proposed changes was a provision that would allow a permitted variance to remain in place for a whole year, a change with which several councilmembers took contention. Thomaides spearheaded an amendment that would have altered the full-year life of a variance to just six months. The motion went to a vote and passed with a 4-3 vote, leaving Couch, Narvaiz, and Terry losing in their opposition.
Thomaides insisted that however the ordinance and variances were to be sliced, residents should be restricted to one specific watering day per week, without options that could be exploitable or unenforceable.
“It’s one day a week (for watering),” Thomaides said. “That’s my point. One day, just like everybody else.”
Couch, however, had a different point of view.
“I think this ordinance is about conservation,” Couch said. “I’d like to have a second day to choose.”
Couch illustrated a dilemma she found herself in when it came to water conservation. On a recent Tuesday, she said, lightning and thunder filled the sky and she was confronted with the option of either watering her lawn early that morning or not. Weighing in on her decision was the possibility of rain. Couch said she contemplated watering because it may not rain, but also considered that it would not help conservation efforts in the chance that it did rain. If she did not water her lawn and it did not rain, she said, it would have been “impossible” for her to water in the evening due to her tight schedule. When a situation like this presents itself, Couch said, an optional watering day is “essential.”
Taggart said 37 complaints have surfaced on water violations since January 1, but noted that he didn’t “believe any tickets have been issued.”
Said San Marcos City Manager Rick Menchaca, “The reason for that is because there has been compliance.”
The city has been under Stage 2 drought restrictions since June 19. Stage 2 restrictions include the following:
• Waste of water is prohibited.
• Irrigation with sprinklers and automatic sprinkler irrigation systems is allowed only one day per week on the designated weekday between the hours of 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. and 8 p.m. to midnight. The designated weekday is as follows:
* Monday for addresses ending in 0 or 1.
* Tuesday for addresses ending in 2 or 3.
* Wednesday for addresses ending in 4 or 5.
* Thursday for addresses ending in 6 or 7.
* Friday for addresses ending in 8 or 9.
• Hand watering is allowed on any day and at any time.
• Irrigation with a soaker hose or drip irrigation system is allowed only one day per week on the designated weekday between the hours of 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. and 8 p.m. to midnight.
• Irrigation of golf courses and athletic fields with sprinklers is allowed only one day per week on the designated weekday between the hours of midnight to 10 a.m. and 8 p.m. to midnight.
• Charity car washes are prohibited except at a certified commercial car wash.
• At-home car washing is allowed only on the designated weekday between the hours of 6-10 a.m. and 8 p.m.-midnight and must be done using a hand-held bucket or hand-held hose equipped with a positive shutoff device.
• Swimming pools located outdoors must have at least 25 percent of the water surface area covered when not in use.
• Filling of new swimming pools is prohibited.
• Operation of outdoor decorative water features is prohibited.
• Washing of impervious surfaces is prohibited.
• Foundation watering is allowed only one day per week on the designated weekday between the hours of midnight-10 a.m. and 8 p.m.-midnight.
• Restaurants are allowed to serve water only upon specific request by the customer.
• All other non-essential water use is prohibited.
The Stage 2 declaration is in response to the Edwards Aquifer Authority’s (EAA) call for additional restrictions. Stage 2 is implemented when the ten-day average at the J-17 monitoring well in Bexar County falls below 650 feet above mean sea level (msl). That ten-day average fell to 649.6 on June 18. As of midnight Sunday, that ten-day average fell to 642.5 feet. When the average reaches 640 feet, much more restrictive Stage 3 restrictions come into play.
The city implemented Stage 1 of its drought response plan on April 28, responding to low flows at San Marcos Springs.
The city last went into Stage 2 restrictions in September 2006. Under EAA rules, aquifer users such as municipalities are required to reduce their usage by 30 percent during Stage 2.
The city receives 75 percent of its water supply from surface water from Canyon Lake and 25 percent from the aquifer.