San Marcos looks at weakening drought restrictions

SAN MARCOS, Texas -- While Austin is looking at enhancing water restrictions, residents in San Marcos are considering allowing residents to use more water.

San Marcos City Council is in the process of reviewing their drought restriction rules, after several citizens petitioned the council to be able to use more water.

Although the crystal clear water of the Edwards Aquifer flows right through the city in the San Marcos River, that resource only makes up about 7 percent of the city's drinking water. The city purchases the majority of it's water from Canyon Lake, which is currently 77 percent full according to GBRA.

Some San Marcos residents say they want to see drought restriction triggers tied to the source of their drinking water: Canyon Lake. Currently, levels of drought restriction are decided based on Edwards Aquifer levels.

Dr. Thomas Hardy, Chief Science Officer at the Meadows Center for Water and the Environment, has been invited by council to weigh in on the debate.

"I was shocked when I got the call to come and talk about what was going on," Hardy said Friday. "I was like, 'You've got to be kidding me. We're in a drought, we're scared to death we're going to drain canyon lake... and we're having a dialogue about increasing water use on a per-capita basis?"

For example, some changes to stage three being considered include permitting swimming pools to be filled, restaurants to serve water without a request, and more frequent watering of lawns.

Hardy likens the situation to being adrift in a life boat with enough supplies for 30 days. Survivors are pretty sure they'll get rescued in two weeks, and decide to dig in. The problem, he says, is Texans don't know when the drought will end.

The lakes holding Austin's water supply have dropped so low the water utility is adding extra restrictions between stages three and four. Hardy says San Marcos should take note.

"There's one community, Austin, that is thinking of this in a community sense, but in San Marcos, in my humble opinion, it is a very few people that are trying to drive a change in city policy," he said.

He says people that argue drought restrictions discourage growth just need to see the glass as 'half full.'

"We have the lowest per-capita water use of anybody in the region," said Hardy. "Which means we have the most water supply available for development."

As for whether San Marcos should tie it's drought restrictions to Canyon Lake levels, rather than the Edwards Aquifer, Hardy says it's all connected. When aquifer levels start to drop, he says the same is probably happening at Canyon Lake, so either is a fine indicator to use when determining water restrictions.


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