New SAWS project will pipe water from Burleson County

Proposal awaits City Council approval

SAN ANTONIO – In a vote on Tuesday, San Antonio Water System approved an unprecedented proposal that would bring 50,000 acre feet of water to San Antonio through a pipeline from Burleson County. 

Burleson County is located around 150 miles to the northeast of San Antonio.

The proposal was put forward by Vista Ridge Consortium.  The consortium is led by Abengoa, an international company based in Spain.

Although contract negotiations lie ahead, SAWS took a huge leap forward in securing future water resources. It was a change of heart for the water utility after all proposals for water pipelines were rejected earlier this year.

"Since that time, this particular proposal has been updated by the Vista Ridge Consortium and they have clarified a number of things that made us comfortable enough to select them," said SAWS spokesperson Greg Flores.

Specifically, Vista Ridge Consortium agreed to lower the total cost over the 30-year project by $700 million and agreed to incur risk, meaning San Antonio ratepayers would only pay for water that is delivered. Still, opponents are called the deal a case of "water wars," adding that conservation, not pipelines are the answer.

"We have our own (water), we have a good source and why are we investing in something we don't even need?" said Dr. Meredith McGuire.

SAWS countered that argument by pointing out that SAWS runs the largest water recycling program in the country.

"We are already doing more than anyone else in the country when it comes to water conservation, but that is not going to be enough for the next fifty years for this community," said Flores.

Vista Ridge Consortium will develop the well field and the pipeline which would run from Burleson County to San Antonio. Proponents said this would allow for other cities, like Austin or Buda, to join in on the project and share the cost. SAWS Ratepayers, however, can expect an increase.

"At some point between now and the year 2020 we will have to raise rates by approximately 16%," added Flores.

The added water would likely eliminate the need for Stage 3 and 4 water restrictions according to SAWS and water could flow through the pipeline as early as 2019.

The project still needs City Council approval. 

Meanwhile, both Vista Ridge Consortium and SAWS promised transparency when it comes to contract negotiations, which will occur over coming weeks. The first negotiation meeting occurred on Tuesday, with additional meetings scheduled weekly on Tuesday mornings at 7 a.m.  All meetings will be open to the public.

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