Hear from Utilities Director Mike Mann
Water management and conservation have remained a priority as Boerne and nearly the entire state of Texas continue to experience a prolonged drought and higher than normal temperatures in 2022.
With this in mind, we checked in with Boerne Utilities Director Mike Mann on several water-related topics, including:
- Where Boerne's water comes from
- Importance of water restrictions and conservation
- Comparing typical water consumption and production to 2022
- Outlook on Boerne’s water future
Visit the links below for more helpful water resources.
Where Boerne's Water Comes From
What are Boerne Utilities water production sources?
Mike: Only about 25 percent of our water comes from the ground, well water. The other three quarters comes from lakes – Boerne City Lake and Canyon Lake through GBRA (Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority). Our GBRA water is basically the water we serve for living purposes, such as laundry, washing dishes, and bathing. It comes on a constant flow basis all year long; it’s the water we use all through the winter and through the summer. Our summertime peak water production, which is primarily irrigation of lawns and landscaping, comes from a combination of Boerne City Lake water and well water.
In times of drought or in curtailment from the Cow Creek Water Conservation District, like we are now under their Stage 3 restrictions, there is just less water available from wells. So, we ask our customers to conserve because we are not as able to achieve peak production.
How does the City of Boerne’s agreement with GBRA work?
Mike: Our maximum water availability from Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority (GBRA) and planned treatment plant improvements at Boerne City Lake will allow us to serve at least 35,000 people. However, Boerne Utilities is not currently taking our maximum allocation of GBRA water due to the high cost of that treated water supply and having a service population of just over half that number. The amount of water we request from GBRA is delivered on a constant flow basis and can only ratchet upward. Thus, we cannot request more in drought conditions and reduce that allocation when rains occur.
Water Conservation and Restrictions
Why does the City of Boerne impose water restrictions at times? If additional water is available, why aren’t we accessing it?
Mike: It’s about availability, not depressurizing the system, making sure that we keep enough in storage, all of those kinds of operational things that I won’t bore you with. But we do in fact have enough water for at least 35,000 people. In the name of rate control, we buy what we think we will need prudently for the summertime to both meet our everyday consumption, as well as our peak. When necessary, in unusual times, we ask our customers to conserve. That’s done not just because we are short of water, but because it’s a temporary shortage based on weather, and we are trying to control costs and therefore rates.
What do the changes to Boerne Utilities water restriction stages mean for customers now?
Mike: Over the years we have made changes. The bottom line is grass doesn’t need to be watered twice a week. It can be taught to live on once per week. So what we did with this most recent revision is eliminate weekend watering and now Stage 1 is what we used to call Stage 2 – once per week watering by address for your lawn and landscaping. Our actual restrictions for the most part do not change at all with this change in stage name. So, I think that’s the main message – just keep doing what you’re doing.
The updated drought contingency plan ordinance imposes the same one-day-per-week lawn watering requirements in Stage 1 as we had previously allowed in Stage 2. Our new Stage 2 allowable watering times, although still allowing irrigation once a week, are even more restrictive due to reduced allowable hours of irrigation.
For our customers, nothing has changed. You can still water with irrigation sprinklers once per week before 11 a.m. and after 7 p.m. on your assigned day. The only change is that these restrictions are now classified as Stage 1.
How do restrictions from the Cow Creek Groundwater Conservation District impact Boerne Utilities?
Mike: Cow Creek Groundwater Conservation District implemented their Stage 3 restrictions, which reduces Boerne Utilities’ allowable groundwater well pumping by 30 percent. So, the record demand for water consumption by our customers has coincided with this required decrease in production.
Average Water Usage Compared to 2022
What does Boerne Utilities’ water consumption look like in a typical year?
Mike: The wintertime average consumption is around 2 million gallons per day for our population. In the summertime, historically, we see a peak in the middle of the summer that is somewhere between 2 to 2.5 times that amount, and it ramps up and it ramps down.
This year it ramped up really quickly and then when we imposed restrictions it came down a little and is hovering. That tells us that the restrictions are working.
Are conservation efforts working?
Mike: We have seen a reduction overall. Ten years ago, our per capita usage was around 165 gallons per person per day. It’s come down to 140, 130 gallons per person per day, except in really dry years when we see more water usage through the summer and all year long, and that makes the average go up. A big factor in our conservation is our reclaimed water availability. A lot of the new houses that are being built have reclaimed water as their sole irrigation source for sprinkler systems. So, we’re saving 11 percent of our water overall just by serving reclaimed water.
How has the current drought impacted water production and consumption for Boerne Utilities?
Mike: This summer has been unusually hot and dry. We observed record potable and reclaimed water demand in May, at levels that we would not normally expect until August. Because we had previously implemented Stage 2 of our Drought Contingency Plan, we increased our public education and enforcement efforts aimed at maintaining water demand at or below production capacity. Over the past three to four weeks, water demand has been maintained at manageable levels. We experienced only one day of potable water demand greater than four million gallons. Thus, it appears that our drought contingency plan measures are having the desired effect and our customers’ conservation efforts are going a long way.
Boerne's Water Outlook
How does Boerne Utilities compare to surrounding communities in terms of water production?
Mike: A lot of our neighbors are in much worse shape because they don’t have the surface water resources that we have. As long as our customers continue to do their part and conserve like they are, then we are having no problems meeting the demand with our current resources.
What does the immediate future look like for Boerne Utilities and its customers?
Mike: Because our observed water demand as compared to current production capability has been manageable, we feel it is possible to call for Stage 1 Restrictions under the new ordinance – effectively leaving the same landscape irrigation measures in place. We still have at least six weeks of hot, dry weather in the forecast. If production capability decreases for some reason and/or demand increases, it may be necessary to advance the stage of our new drought contingency plan. But for now, things look promising.