For The Answer
Week of August 19, 2002
There will not be enough Edwards Aquifer water available for use by San Antonio in the future to meet all of our needs. The Edwards Aquifer Authority has a mandate to maintain pumping at levels necessary to protect endangered species, downstream interests, area agriculture, and all of the communities on the aquifer.
To meet future water needs San Antonio and the rest of the region are aggressively pursuing savings through water conservation and seeking new water sources to supplement our Edwards water. Since the mid-1980s San Antonio has reduced per capita water use by 34% to 143 gallons/person/day in 2001. The number is the lowest of any large city in Texas, and probably the whole western United States.
Water from the Trinity Aquifer is being used in the northern part of SAWS and work has begun on the Aquifer Storage and Recovery (ASR) system in the Carrizo Aquifer in the south. Two large surface water sources are being researched: the Guadalupe River and the Colorado River. In the meantime, two smaller surface water sources have the potential to come on line. Canyon Lake water in the north was going to be first, but some delays have arisen to make it likely that the Southside Interconnect could be first. The Southside Interconnect is a small source of new water for SAWS, about 307 acre feet per year, but it is still a significant project.
SAWS is trading the expansion of part of its commercial conservation program (low-flow toilets for multifamily dwellings) into the Bexar Met area and access to some water mains for the 307 acre feet (100 million gallons) per year.
Everybody wins in this deal. SAWS better serves 860 customers in Service Area 1, does not have to build new storage facilities (savings of $2 million) and increases its water supply by 100 million gallons/year (307 acre feet). Bexar Met does not have to build new pipelines through the SAWS area to serve its customers south of the SAWS area, for a savings of $5 million. Bexar Met apartment buildings also have access to the low-flow toilet rebate program that will save another 50 million gallons per year for Bexar Met Water.
The deal was motivated by the water conservation initiative between the San Antonio Apartment Association, SAWS and Bexar Met. If all apartments in San Antonio have low-flow toilets, a huge amount of water is saved and tenants can be more fairly allocated their water costs. The apartment industry is one of the stakeholder groups working hard to keep up the momentum of the water conservation effort in San Antonio.
Last week SAWS and Bexar Met officials met with individuals interested in the Southside Interconnect project at Heritage School located at 3223 W. Loop 1604 N. Everyone in the area was also invited to tour the Bexar Met Medina River treatment plant on Sunday. The plant is the state of the art water treatment facility providing the new water to SAWS.
I attended both sessions because of the importance of this project to the SAWS Conservation effort. There were some good questions. Here are several that I remember and the answers that were provided:
Q: Why does SAWS have to use surface water?
A: The amount we can pump from the Edwards Aquifer does not meet our projected needs and good surface water is available from several sources.
Q: Why is this area the first to receive the new water?
A: This area, roughly bounded by Loop 1604, 281 South, and I-35 South, has a number of water service issues that can be solved with the trade. Both SAWS and Bexar Met can improve service to their customers in the area by the trade. SAWS customers in north Bexar County already receive non-Edwards water and will soon receive Canyon Lake water. Bexar Met customers in the area have received the water for several years.
Q: Will any SAWS customers become Bexar Met customers or vice versa?
A: No, SAWS customers remain SAWS customers and Bexar Met customers remain Bexar Met customers. Rates do not change due to this trade.
Q: Will water quality remain high?
A: Yes, both Bexar Met and SAWS are governed by the same water quality rules. SAWS will monitor the new water, just like SAWS wholesale customers monitor the water they buy from SAWS
If you have more questions about the Southside Interconnect or any SAWS water conservation projects, call 704-7354 and ask for Calvin Finch or Eddie Wilcut.