Texas Drought Turns Neighbor Against Neighbor Over Water Restrictions

Texas water hotline/ABC News

In San Antonio, a lush, green lawn is a cause for suspicion rather than pride.

While much of Texas is in the middle of a devastating drought, San Antonio's is the worst the area has seen since the 1950s. The lack of rainfall is projected to cost the state over $4 billion in lost crops and livestock.

September 2007 to June 2009 was the all-time driest 22-month period for San Antonio, with a total precipitation of 23.90 inches. The normal level of rainfall is 61.24 inches.

With water a precious commodity in the Lone Star state, San Antonio residents are doing their part to guard against waste.

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That means no use of sprinklers between 10 a.m. and 8 p.m., no allowing water to run off into a storm drain or gutter and no watering landscaping after rainfall, according to the San Antonio Water System Web site, or SAWS.

This water restriction is turning a lot of lawns brown and turning neighbor against neighbor.

San Antonio officials have set up an anonymous tip line to help enforce these restrictions. And now the calls are flooding in from angry residents eager to rat out their water-wasting neighbors.

"I need to report someone running their sprinkler system yesterday," one caller says. "There's some water running down the street so there's a violation right there."

Another caller admits to videotaping a neighbor who reputedly hoses down his walkway and driveway every day, and "sometimes twice a day."

He says he and his wife are really trying to watch their water use and says their neighbor's cavalier attitude is "just like a slap in the face for us."

"He doesn't have a jo,b so he has a little time on his hands," the caller mentions.

One tenant calls out his apartment complex's maintenance crew for allowing "leaky faucets" to waste water every day. Not only that, he's got another neighbor who runs his automated sprinkler all day.

"He's got nice green grass and I can see why," the tenant gripes to the tip line agent.

A shopping plaza is running their sprinklers all day, reports a female caller. "My grass is dead and they're wasting water! They're wasting it!"

"It just aggravates the living heck outta me," she adds, angrily.

City Officials Turn to Recycling Water

Off-duty police officers and water systems employees are kept busy, heading out every night patrolling neighborhoods for violators.

City officials are doing everything they can to alleviate the pressure, including recycling more water.

"One of the things we're doing is augmenting with recycled water," says Greg Flores, vice president of the San Antonio Water System. "[We] send water down sinks or flush toilets -- we treat water to drinking water standards and reuse that water."

According to the SAWS web site, if an enforcement officer observes a violation in an area where water use is restricted, a misdemeanor citation will immediately be issued, requiring a court appearance and possible fine.

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