Yes. This new non-Edwards Aquifer supply is needed for three important 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 project 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 droughtproof 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 due to running out of water. 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.
San Antonio boasts the lowest water bill 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, is that 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.
A “lifeline” rate for water service was approved by San Antonio City Council in November 2015 as part of recommended changes to SAWS’ tiered water rate structure.
The lifeline rate is based on volume, not income. Residents who conserve water and use less than 400 cubic feet (4 ccf) during their monthly billing cycle are billed at a lower rate. Four ccf equals 2,992 gallons per month, or about 100 gallons per day. Residents can qualify for this every month of the year, and those who exceed 4 ccf per month would be billed at normal rates.
In addition to the lifeline rate, SAWS continues to enhance and boost its affordability programs for low-income customers.
With the recent ongoing drought, cities across Texas are competing for scarce water resources. That means the cost of water supplies will continue to climb in the future.
As an example, San Antonio rejected an opportunity in 1976 to purchase Canyon Lake water for $33 per acre-foot. Today, Canyon Lake water costs over $1,000 per acre-foot.
The Vista Ridge Pipeline project is tomorrow’s needed water at today’s prices. This water will supply San Antonio for decades without significant cost escalation over the next 30 years.
Yes. One of the reasons this project is needed is to help protect the Edwards Aquifer and its spring flow habitat for endangered species (see above).
SAWS does not view this project as a green light for development over the Edwards Aquifer Recharge Zone. A review of Bexar Appraisal District and San Antonio Planning Department records indicates that 90 percent of the 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.
Yes. The Carrizo and Simsboro aquifers in Burleson County are not, and have never been, under drought restrictions. The aquifers are full and are considered drought resistant, containing over 12 times the amount of water in all Texas lakes combined. The source of water is protected by a local water district and permitted for 30 years through more than 3,400 leases with local landowners in Burleson County.
No. SAWS commits that it will not abandon its water conservation ethic. By 2020 and every year thereafter, we will save additional water equal to one-and-a-half times the annual demand of New Braunfels. When times are wet we can utilize this new supply while also storing Edwards Aquifer water in preparation for the next drought.
When on line, the Vista Ridge Pipeline project will help ensure that San Antonio can avoid the need for extreme (Stages 3 and 4) watering restrictions for the foreseeable future.
Local individual landowners in Burleson County have signed over 3,400 leases to provide their water from the Carrizo and Simsboro Aquifers in that county. This project is a true example of Texan helping Texan through a win-win deal that benefits San Antonio and the local landowners who are leasing their private water rights.