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Commentary: Texas Representative Says San Antonio Pipeline Should be Model

As communities across the West adjust to drier conditions, one major question facing water managers is how to find new sources of water.  San Antonio, TX is attempting to expand its water sources with the Vista Ridge Pipeline, which will bring groundwater 142 miles from rural Burleson County.  The project, which is scheduled to come online in 2020, is designed to deliver up to 50,000 acre-feet per year, enough to avoid major drought restrictions and support the city’s growing population. The water is sourced from private land, with 3,400 landowners leasing groundwater to the private consortium constructing the project.

In a recent commentary, Rep. Lyle Larson, who serves San Antonio in the Texas legislature, praised the project as a “template for the state in developing regional partnerships to provide water security.”  Larson particularly praises the Post Oak Savannah Groundwater Conservation District, the agency charged with managing the groundwater aquifer where the water is sourced from, for balancing its conservation mission with the property rights of landowners in the area.  Fees on the exported water will fund local conservation grants, meaning the project will feed back into Burleson County’s economy.  This collaborative approach is preferable to the alternative, which Larson says is for a public agency to buy up land and start pumping, without regard for local agriculture.

San Antonio officials have touted the project as a way to lock up a good source of water before it becomes too expensive in the future, pointing to the city’s decision in the 1970s not to buy water from Canyon Lake at $33.02/AF, which now costs over $1,000/AF.  On the other hand, some feel the projected 16% average water rate hike that will fund the project is too high.  Another contentious element of the project is its environmental impact.  The San Antonio Water System (SAWS) argues that having the pipeline will reduce pressure on the Edwards Aquifer, which is the city’s main source of water, allowing for more environmental flows.  Environmental groups, for their part, fear that with a new source of water, SAWS will feel comfortable cutting back on conservation measures.

Written by Stratecon Staff