Hardberger’s water passion springs from lifelong interest

by Jeanie Tavitas

From bugs and mud to rocks and water — Amy Hardberger says her obsession with being outdoors and everything associated with it goes way back. That’s why it was a no-brainer when she was asked to serve on the SAWS Board of Trustees.

A native San Antonian, Hardberger commutes to Lubbock, to teach water law, land use planning, and Texas environmental law at Texas Tech School of Law. When she’s not in class, she’s in San Antonio, the city she’s always considered home and where she “lives in the same neighborhood I grew up in.”

Still, Hardberger says she spent portions of her childhood summers with her grandparents in West Texas, which had a very different feel from San Antonio.

“When you hang out with farmers you hear a lot about water — from that perspective it was always a huge influence,” she says, remembering how her grandfather was always watching the barometer. “If it rained, we were always outside because it was
something you celebrated and appreciated.”

Though she was an only child, Hardberger was seldom alone. Instead, she spent most of her adolescence surrounded by extended family who supported her bold choices and outspokenness.

“They never told me something wasn’t ladylike, which I appreciate because I probably was not a ladylike girl,” she acknowledged. “I don’t think you really appreciate how special that is until you’re older, that you didn’t have to fight against someone else’s version of you.”

That unwavering support from family, as well as from educators and mentors along the way, is what encouraged her to always speak her mind. Of course, luck also played a part, she says, since she “came from a long line of squeaky wheels and I couldn’t be more honored to carry that on.”

“I’ve always been pretty tenacious and had strong thoughts, much to everyone’s chagrin,” said Hardberger. “If your career is shaped by advocacy, you can’t be a wallflower.”

Indeed. Before teaching water law, she worked as an attorney for the Environmental Defense Fund, where she focused on all things water. Successful career aside, she says her most proud accomplishments are relationships and friendships she’s cultivated along the way.

“I’ve worked hard, but I’m extremely grateful that people have helped me to be able to work in the area I feel really passionate about,” said Hardberger, who knew early on she wanted to be involved in water. Her service to SAWS echoes that childhood passion.

“It definitely has a resonance to me that I’m helping hopefully protect the first water that I ever as a human being had, which is kind of full circle,” she says.

When it comes to her vision for the future of water in San Antonio, Hardberger says there will be challenges going forward that all of Texas — San Antonio included — will experience. But her hope is that “San Antonio has put in the work and infrastructure to respond to those effectively.”