Diversifying our water supply. Securing water for the future.
The Vista Ridge Pipeline, is a 142-mile water project slated to be completed in 2020. It will provide the largest non-Edwards Aquifer supply in our city’s history.
SAWS has a contract with Vista Ridge LLC (VR) to purchase up to 50,000 acre-feet per year of Carrizo/Simsboro Aquifer groundwater. VR will build and operate wells and a pipeline system to pump the groundwater in Burleson County and deliver it to San Antonio for 30 years.
SAWS will pay a fixed unit price for water delivered plus all operating and maintenance and utility costs. Ownership of the wells and pipeline system will transfer to SAWS at the end of the term, after which a separate agreement with the owner of the groundwater leases, Blue Water Vista Ridge, will give SAWS the ability to continue production for an additional 30-year term and deliver the water at a much lower price. This is a significant new step in the project and a monumental achievement to secure our water future.
Garney Construction began construction on the project in early 2017. The pipeline’s route will parallel the I-35 corridor. The project is expected to be completed in 2020.
Is Vista Ridge necessary for our future?
Water is the basis for San Antonio’s prosperity, and the pipeline will provide 20 percent more water for San Antonio — enough for 162,000 new families. It will also provide protection to the Edwards Aquifer during drought.
The pipeline is an important component of SAWS’ 50-year Water Management Plan.
This new non-Edwards Aquifer supply is needed for three crucial reasons:
- To protect the Edwards Aquifer
In the 1990s the Sierra Club won a lawsuit to protect Edwards Aquifer spring flow habitat for endangered species. During Stage 5 of drought, San Antonio’s access to the Edwards is cut by 44 percent. The Vista Ridge pipeline will provide water that we don’t have to pump from the Edwards, helping us protect endangered species during drought.
- To prepare for drought
Experts predict hotter and drier summers in the years to come, so water from this project is what is needed for San Antonio. It is a drought-proof supply that will be delivered even in the deepest drought.
- To support future prosperity
A recent economic impact study reports that if we fail to increase our water supply in San Antonio, we will lose billions in economic impact and thousands of jobs. New non-Edwards supplies are needed to support the growing demand of 20,000 new people every year, to secure our quality of life and to help ensure future economic prosperity for our children and grandchildren.
Keeping pace with growth while protecting existing resources
SAWS does not view this project as a green light for unbridled development. A review of Bexar Appraisal District and San Antonio Planning Department records indicates that 90 percent of the Edwards Aquifer Recharge Zone in Bexar County is already developed, master-planned or protected. So this new supply will also be available for every part of our city, distributed from Stone Oak in the north to our Mission Pump Station in the south.
How much will the pipeline cost and what does that mean for customers?
San Antonio boasts one of the lowest water bills of any major city in Texas. At the time of the project’s genesis in 2014, it was estimated that the average residential bill would be approximately $88 in 2020, of which no more than $12 would be needed to pay for the water provided through this project.
Most importantly, however, San Antonio will only pay for water that is delivered. That means any risk to the delivery of water falls on the private developer, not on the SAWS ratepayer.
The SAWS Board of Trustees approved a recommendation to lock in interest rates for the Vista Ridge water project, which will lower the cost to SAWS customers by more than $450 million.