Water fountains and other water features can add to the enjoyment of a home or public space, but if not carefully monitored they also can lead to excessive water use. San Antonio’s conservation ordinance allows for a variance process for different categories of water features to be operated with conservation in mind. However, SAWS encourages all residents and businesses to turn off water features during drought stages as a matter of good stewardship of a precious, finite resource.

Indoor & Residential Water Features

No variance is needed to operate any size fountain or water feature located either indoors or at a single-family residence. Simple as that.

Commercial/Non-residential Outdoor Water Features

Less Than 1,000 Square Feet

Basic Outdoor Water Feature Variance is required to operate the following non-residential, outdoor water features during drought restrictions:

  • Small Outdoor Fountains/Water Features — Fountains and water features with less than 1,000 square feet of pool surface area – including horizontal and vertical surface areas – may be operated anytime during drought stages as long as they are in good working order and with an approved Basic Outdoor Water Feature Variance.
  • Wildlife Habitat — Water features that are operated as wildlife habitat as defined in the conservation ordinance may be operated anytime during drought stages with an approved Basic Outdoor Water Feature Variance. A wildlife habitat water feature means an established aquatic wildlife habitat that has actively sustained a variety of wildlife in a deliberative, inclusive ecosystem including plant material in and around the water and fish in the water.
  • 100 Percent Reclaimed Water Source — Fountains and water features using 100 percent reclaimed water sources – recycled water, reuse water, condensate, cooling tower blow-down, gray water or other on-site alternative non-potable water source – may be operated anytime during drought stages, provided there is no potable makeup whatsoever, and there is signage in the public view stating that this feature uses only reclaimed water. All water tanks must be registered via the Non-Potable Water TankWeb page. This feature requires an approved Basic Outdoor Water Feature Variance.

More Than 1,000 Square Feet

To operate large, non-residential outdoor fountains and water features during drought stages, an approved Outdoor Water Feature Conservation Plan is required. Through this plan you can request either a Basic Fountain Variance or an Advanced Fountain Variance.

With a Basic Fountain Variance, outdoor fountains and water features with more than 1,000 square feet of pool surface area (including horizontal and vertical surface areas) can be operated for:

With an Advanced Fountain Variance, outdoor fountains and water features with more than 1,000 square feet of pool surface area (including horizontal and vertical surface areas) can be operated for:

For questions about water fountains/water features variances, please call the Conservation Department at 210-704-SAVE (7283).