Robert R. Puente was appointed San Antonio Water System’s President and CEO in May 2008. As chief executive of one of the nation’s largest utilities, he provides leadership in delivering water and wastewater services to more than 1.7 million consumers, developing new water resources, continuing infrastructure upgrades throughout the community, and building regional partnerships.
Before coming to SAWS as the President/CEO, Puente served in the Texas House of Representatives. First elected in 1991, Puente was appointed to the House Natural Resources Committee, which develops water policy for the state. He became its chairman in 2003.
As one of the policy pioneers of modern water supply management in Texas, Puente helped shape and steward key landmark regional water issues, including:
- Creation of the Edwards Aquifer Authority and subsequent resolution to the permitting structure and the Endangered Species impacts, saving the region over $750 million dollars.
- Establishment of a regional water planning and an Environmental Flows study process.
- State focus on water conservation measures and plans for municipalities.
Since taking the helm at SAWS, Puente has led the entity through many historic financial and operational successes and is often called on to share these successes throughout the United States and abroad. Recent highlights include:
- Integration of a separate utility (BexarMet) the size of a medium Texas city into SAWS, relieving the community of imminent water shortages faced by the utility.
- Achievement of the highest bond rating in SAWS’ history, while also focusing on efficiency and innovation by reducing headcount, costs and outdated processes that saved the utility millions of dollars annually.
- Recognition and awards including:
- Texas Environmental Excellence Award.
- Top Workplace Award four consecutive years (2011-2014).
- Business Opportunity Diversity Award.
- 2015 San Antonio Business Journal C-Suite Award.
Under Puente’s leadership, SAWS has focused on water supply diversification and innovation comprising:
- Innovative partnerships including a regional water supply contract with the cities of Schertz and Seguin which saved SAWS customers $88 million in the development of the Regional Carrizo Project.
- Highest storage milestone ever at the Aquifer Storage & Recovery facility, surpassing 100,000 acre-feet of water available for future use.
- First in the nation to capture sewer gasses (previously flared off as waste) to be sold into the natural gas grid to a private company.
- Public-private partnership to develop a 32-mile sewer pipeline through south Bexar County, helping to spur development in a historically limited area.
- Development of the Vista Ridge project, that when brought on line will be the largest non-Edwards Aquifer supply in SAWS water supply portfolio, providing up to 50,000 acre-feet of water per year to meet the demands of a growing regional economy and population.
In 1979, Puente received a bachelor’s degree in political science from St. Mary’s University. He received his Doctor of Jurisprudence from The University of Texas School of Law in 1982. Prior to joining SAWS, he practiced law as a private attorney and managed his own firm since 1983.
Puente is married to Carmen Muñiz Puente. They have three children.