Thursday the San Antonio City Council will vote on a new SAWS rate structure being proposed in part to pay for Vista Ridge. “The controversial Vista Ridge water pipeline, if completed, will pump 50,000 acre-feet/year of Carrizo-Wilcox Aquifer groundwater from a well field located in Burleson County.” Curtis Chubb takes a hard look while San Antonio’s largest business group is backing water rate increase.
Commentary: Is the Vista Ridge Groundwater Reliable?
November 16, 2015
by Curtis Chubb, The Rivard Report
The controversial Vista Ridge water pipeline, if completed, will pump 50,000 acre-feet/year of Carrizo-Wilcox Aquifer groundwater from a well field located in Burleson County. The groundwater will have to be treated and then transported 142 miles through a five-foot wide pipeline to reach San Antonio.
“Ultimately, it’s the reliability of this water that becomes the tipping point,” San Antonio City Councilman Ron Nirenberg (D8) said about the Vista Ridge project in a recent San Antonio Express-News report.
If Nirenberg considers the groundwater’s reliability as the “tipping point,” the Vista Ridge project’s greatest weakness will be exposed since the groundwater supply is not reliable for the following reasons… read more from the Rivard Report
San Antonio’s largest business group backing water rate increase
The largest business group in San Antonio is backing San Antonio Water System’s proposed water rate hike and is urging the City Council to do the same.
The San Antonio Chamber of Commerce’s board of directors unanimously endorsed SAWS’ plans, which will help finance the construction of the proposed 142-mile Vista Ridge Pipeline. If built, the controversial pipeline would transport groundwater from Burleson County to San Antonio to supplement the city’s current sources of water and to pay for other infrastructure projects. Read more from the San Antonio Business Journal
Hill Country Alliance and UTSA partnered with Texas Public Radio in October in a Vista Ridge oriented Texas Water Symposium to explore the potential financial risks and ecological consequences that the Vista Ridge Pipeline will bring to San Antonio and the region. That event featured among others SAWS CEO Robert Puente, and the author of the San Antonio Water Policy Study, Dr. Calvin Finch.
In addition to rate hike concerns, the residents of the counties that will be “donating” the Vista Ridge Pipeline water point to a recent scientific study by hydrogeologist George Rice that demonstrates the potential effects that the aquifer withdrawals will have on area wells and spring-flow.
During the last two months, CEAC received presentations from SAWS and concerned citizens regarding the SAWS rate increase for residential and commercial proposal, which city council is scheduled to vote on the 19th of November CEAC requests that Council members consider these questions prior to the vote:
- Will the SAWS 2015 Water Management Plan be made publically available prior to the vote on November 19th? This vote is determining the trajectory of our water future, yet the only plan available from SAWS for review is the 2012 Water Management Plan which needs to be adjusted to reflect a reduced demand per capita, newly established supplies and updated population growth projections. It is crucial that all information be made available to ensure fully informed decisions are made about our water future.
- How will SAWS address our current high rate of water loss? According to pages 72 – 73 of the Water Policy Analysis for the Cities of San Antonio and Fair Oaks Ranch (released November 2015), lost/non-revenue water accounted for approximately 36,305 AF of water in 2013, which is approximately 75% of the yearly proposed Vista Ridge supply. We understand and appreciate that SAWS is currently studying the sources of the water loss. Adequate funds need to be directed to our aging water infrastructure to ensure clean and safe water is being delivered efficiently to our citizens. CEAC feels that good stewardship of our existing water resources must be the first step to ensure a stable and economically viable water future in San Antonio.
- To what degree is SAWS committed to continue to reduce per capita demand when, per page 68 of the Water Study, it appears the supply will far exceed the demand for quite some time? Where is the incentive to conserve when SAWS will be obligated to sell 50,000 AF of water starting in 2020, water that we may not need (according to the most conservative population growth numbers and drought of record conditions) until 2040 at the earliest?
- Is there a guarantee that drought restrictions will remain in place even if the metric by which the current restrictions are determined is forced to change due to reduced use of our current primary water supply, the Edwards Aquifer?
- How will the city encourage stormwater management as a means to increase water supply and reduce the need for other more costly water sources and rate increases in the future? CEAC has received encouraging presentations from Camp Bullis and SARA regarding the effectiveness of land management and Low Impact Development strategies for ground water recharge and flood management.
- Great efforts have been made to protect our current primary source of water, the Edwards Aquifer, which currently provides us with inexpensive, clean water that requires only minimal treatment. What source protection is in place for future water projects?