Money for San Antonio aquifer protection would likely be cut under SAWS’ purview

Money for a city program that protects the Edwards Aquifer would be cut in half if the San Antonio Water System took on the responsibility, preliminary figures released Tuesday show.

Mayor Ron Nirenberg has pushed the city-owned utility to assume control of the aquifer protection program, now funded through a voter-approved 1/8-cent sales tax. By doing so, about $40 million in annual sales tax revenue could be redirected to boost bus service.

It’s financially possible for the city-owned water utility to take on aquifer protection without immediate rate increases for its customers, SAWS CEO Robert Puente told board members.

But it’s impossible for SAWS to fund the program at its current level, Puente said. The aquifer protection program gets about $100 million over five years.

If the program moved to SAWS, it would get a little more than half of that amount.

“It’s not that we’re not interested” in maintaining the current funding levels, Puente said after the meeting. “We’re incapable of spending that kind of money.”

But many of the program’s backers think it works as is. Any changes to funding, they say, would harm the community’s ability to protect the aquifer.

Read more from Joshua Fetcher with San Antonio Express-News here.