Irrigational & Industrial Recycled Water

An Environmentally Responsible, Cost-Effective Alternative

In 1996, the SAWS Board committed to a Water Recycling plan to build the nation’s largest recycled water delivery system. Ten years have proved out the wisdom in making full use of an asset that was once considered a liability. The recycled water produced by SAWS water recycling centers holds an important role now and in the city’s future.

Today, more than 130 miles of pipeline delivers highly treated recycled water to golf courses, parks, commercial and industrial customers throughout the city. The system can provide up to 25,000 acre-feet* per year, thereby conserving large amounts of Edwards water for potable use.

San Antonio River Walk Water Feature
A water feature on the San Antonio River Walk adds high-quality recycled water to supplement the river’s natural flows.

The system was also designed to supplement base flows in the upper San Antonio River and Salado Creek. More than 5,800 acre-feet per year is used to ensure flow during low-flow periods or in the event of a drought. The result has been significant and lasting environmental improvements for the aquatic ecosystems in these streams.

Why Recycled Water?

During the mid-1990s, the San Antonio region realized that the Edwards Aquifer had reached a point where demands for pumping and spring flow could not be met from historical recharge. SAWS identified the recycled water program as a short-term project that could potentially replace 20 percent of the then current SAWS pumping from the Edwards Aquifer. It was determined that the recycled water system:

  • Could be implemented quickly.
  • Is cost-effective as compared to developing new water resources.
  • Environmentally responsible.
  • Demonstrates San Antonio’s commitment of preserving our existing resources.

In 2001, SAWS completed the first phase of its system to recycle treated wastewater effluent for irrigation and industrial uses.

What are the Benefits to Recycled Water?

  • Reduces demand on the Edwards Aquifer.
  • Effective treatment and reuse of wastewater – protects public health, the natural environment and the wildlife that depends on it.
  • The water recycling process produces useful byproducts – biosolids can be used in soil conditioning or compost production, and gases can be captured and used to produce heat and power.

More Water Recycling Project Facts

  • More than 60 recycled water customers have been contracted.
  • A total of 18,214 acre-feet per year have been contracted.
  • Approximately 13,300 acre-feet is available for consumptive industrial use.
  • Summertime irrigation capacity has been reached; new requests for irrigation use are evaluated on a case-by-case basis.
  • CPS Energy is contracted to use up to 50,000 acre-feet per year at their power plants.

* An acre-foot of water is equivalent to 325,851 gallons