Case studies

San Antonio Water System

Over the last few decades, San Antonio’s water supply has become increasing limited due to over-pumping of groundwater. To supply the city with clean water, the San Antonio Water System (SAWS) created a program using financial incentives, public education, and outreach initiatives to help the area’s biggest guzzlers – its commercial, industrial, and institutional customers – use water more efficiently. These measures have resulted in a water savings of 3.2 million acre feet, reflecting an almost 50% reduction in water use over the last 20 years – notwithstanding robust population growth. Click the link below to download the full case study.

Project at a Glance

Utility Overview

  • Utility: San Antonio Water System (SAWS)
  • Location: San Antonio, Texas
  • Population served: 1.86 million
  • Service area: 967 square miles


  • Rapidly growing population and economy
  • Prolonged drought
  • Decreased water source permits
  • Need for Endangered Species Act compliance


  • A “conservation first” approach that treats conservation as a source of water supply. This includes three primary strategies:
    1. education and outreach,
    2. financial incentives, and
    3. reasonable regulation

Costs and Funding Sources

  • Total project budget: $5.4 million
  • Incentive and education programs: $3.5 million
  • Conservation staff of 22 full-time people, 5 part-time enforcement officers, 4 seasonal PT staff, and periodic seasonal temporary staff: $1.5 million
  • Program management, research, and web development projects: $0.4 million
  • Funding source: Operating budget funded with utility rates

Benefits of San Antonio's Water Conservation Programs

Reduces water consumption by 50%
Maintains a cost-effective water supply
Ensures affordable rates for all income levels
Engages the community
Creates drought resilience
Increases wildlife habitat for monarch butterflies and other pollinators through native plants
Protects endangered species
Greens urban spaces
Saves money for local businesses

Check out WaterNow’s Tap into Resilience Toolkit to learn even more about investing in localized solutions like SAWS’s in your community.


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