There was no musical fanfare. No heartfelt speeches. And not a TV camera or reporter in sight.
But with the turn of a valve and the click of a mouse, a row of shiny blue pumps whirred to life at Agua Vista Station on April 15. And with that, the Vista Ridge supply, San Antonio’s largest-ever non-Edwards Aquifer water source, began gushing through the pipes, on its way to homes and businesses.
Barely a dozen SAWS leaders, engineers and plant operators were on hand for the low-key occasion — and all wore face masks in light of the ongoing coronavirus emergency.
“Somehow I never imagined our ‘grand opening’ would look like this,” said SAWS President/CEO Robert R. Puente. “This is probably the biggest achievement in our lifetimes to secure San Antonio’s water supply for the next 30, 40, 50 years.”
Much like the 142-mile Vista Ridge pipeline, the project’s path to completion has been a lengthy one. A years-long solicitation process came to fruition in 2014 with the selection of Vista Ridge by the SAWS Board. City Council affirmed that decision by unanimously approving a multiyear rate plan to fund the project.
SAWS set a new benchmark for transparency by negotiating the public-private partnership at open meetings attended by the news media, elected officials, environmental groups and the public.
Under the terms of the contract, if the project cannot provide water for any reason, SAWS will not have to pay. The project will ultimately supply up to 20 percent of San Antonio’s water needs, via 3,400 long-term water leases with landowners in Burleson County.
“I guess the big celebration will have to wait,” Puente said. “Right now, I’m just incredibly proud of what our city, our board, our staff and our community has accomplished, bringing this new water supply to San Antonio.”