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Water waster complaints grow during drought, first time offenders face $120 fine in San Antonio

Automatic sprinkler systems can cause a big spike in water bills this time of year.
Courtesy photo
Water waster reports on the rise as drought lingers

San Antonians have been under Stage 2 water restrictions for one month as of Thursday due to severe drought conditions and complaints about water wasters are increasing.

The San Antonio Water System said residents should know by now they can only water their yards with automatic sprinklers once a week based on their street address and only between the hours of 7 and 11 a.m., and 7 and 11 p.m.

Yards can be watered at any time with a handheld hose.

The water utility's senior director of water conservation Karen Guz said violators could now be fined, possibly without warning.

"We're at that point where it's been enough time for people to have heard about it. We would prefer to educate you and get you into compliance than have you get a citation, but we're starting to get more complaints from people out there seeing violations," she said.

Neighbors often report neighbors as water wasters, but citations are not issued based solely on those reports.

"Either a police officer or a SAWS employee has to see it for there to be a citation, so I know there maybe someone out there...saying, 'My neighbor is just a pain, you know, doesn't like me and they're falsely reporting me.' You can't get a citation for that. Somebody from SAWS or the police department actually has to see it."

Guz advises customers not to directly approach a water waster in their neighborhood unless they are on good terms with them. She said things can go badly, and instead recommends report them anonymously at saws.org.

Citations are issued by police officers and the courts set the fines.

"The courts decide, not SAWS. First to be clear, it's not a SAWS citation, it is a City of San Antonio ordinance. We're just coordinating with the police department. I don't have any authority to write a citation, it would be a police officer that would do it," Guz said.

Fines for a first offense are $120. Not only can violators be reported at saws.org, they can also be reported by calling 210-704-SAWS.

Guz recommends reporting water wasters online since they are automatically entered into a tracking system.

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