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Home : News : News
NEWS | June 17, 2011

JBSA Stage 3 water restrictions in effect, conversation critical

By Steve Elliot Fort Sam Houston News Leader

As a result of continuing drought conditions, the Bexar County index well J-17 - the official well for recording groundwater elevations in the San Antonio Pool of the Edwards Aquifer - fell under 642 feet mean sea level earlier this week.

This was the trigger that sent all three Joint Base San Antonio military installations into Stage 3 water restrictions.

The J-17 well is actually housed in a nondescript building on Fort Sam Houston, just off Harry Wurzbach and near the Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery. It serves as the official well for recording groundwater elevations in the San Antonio Pool of the Edwards Aquifer, according to the Edwards Aquifer Authority Website (

J-17 is the most cited and recognized in a network of observation wells maintained by the Edwards Aquifer Authority to monitor aquifer conditions in Uvalde, Medina, Bexar, Comal and Hays counties. Water level readings at J-17 are continuously recorded and monitored by the authority, the Website stated.

The current drought is the third worst in Texas history, according to Texas State Climatologist John Nielsen-Gammon.

In "Climate Abyss," the online blog Mr. Nielsen-Gammon writes for the Houston Chronicle (, data indicates
the current drought is the state's third-harshest, trailing droughts in 1918 and 1956.

"Those droughts were preceded by other dry years, making water shortages then more severe," said Mr. Nielsen-Gammon, who also is a Texas A&M University professor of atmospheric sciences.

The changes facing homeowners off base and residents of on-base housing from Stage 2 are substantial.

"All the Stage 2 restrictions are still in place. In addition, irrigation is now once every other week with watering times from 3 to 8 a.m. and 8 to 10 p.m.," said Anthony Martinez, 502nd Civil Engineer Squadron.

"This will be done with an irrigation system, sprinkler or soaker hose, and only on your designated watering day.

In Stage 3, facilities may water accordingly:
· Address/facility number ends in 0 or 1, Monday
· Address/facility number ends in 2 or 3, Tuesday
· Address/facility number ends in 4 or 5, Wednesday
· Address/facility number ends in 6 or 7, Thursday
· Address/facility number ends in 8 or 9, Friday

"Use of portable yard pools is prohibited, as well as fire hydrant and sewer flushing," Mr. Martinez added.

"Government-operated vehicles are allowed to be washed once per month and no new planting is allowed."

Additionally, there will be no watering on weekends with a sprinkler, soaker hose or irrigation system.

According to the SAWS Website (, use of fountains,
waterfalls or other aesthetic water features - outdoors or indoors - is prohibited, unless a variance has been granted for 100-percent non-potable water use.

During this drought, watering rules must be strictly adhered to. The Joint Base San Antonio Drought Management Plan is on the 502nd Air Base Wing Website at

"JBSA personnel should not confuse the JBSA water restrictions with the SAWS restriction levels," Mr. Martinez stressed. "At this point of the drought, the JBSA
water restrictions are more stringent and begin sooner than SAWS restrictions.

"JBSA Stage IV water restrictions will occur when the J-17 level reaches 640.5 feet," Mr. Martinez added. "As we get into these more severe stages, we'll need everyone's help to conserve."

A new JBSA hotline and process will be deployed soon that will allow for easier reporting of water abusers and will bring potential disciplinary measures to violators, Mr. Martinez said.

At present, to report misuse, call 221-4251 at Fort Sam Houston, 671-4844 at Lackland Air Force Base or 652-5205 at Randolph AFB.

These water points of contact will responds to calls, investigate, annotate abuse and inform the resident, facility manager or responsible individual of the problem, Mr. Martinez said. The POCs will then report the problem to the 502nd ABW, with further action coordinated from this point.

For people who live off base, SAWS has an online form to report water wasters at These offenses can lead to citations and fines for homeowners and businesses not following the rules.

The SAWS Website also states citizens who witness water waste by businesses or housing subdivisions can call 704-7297 and select option 4 to make a report. To report water and sewer emergencies, including main breaks, any time of day or night, call (210) 704-SAWS (7297) for an immediate response.

For more water-saving tips, check out these Websites: (111 ways to conserve), and (more information on water conservation) and