SAWS OK's Vista Ridge Pipeline project

$3.4 billion project will pump water from Burleson County to SA

SAN ANTONIO – The San Antonio Water System Board on Monday approved a $3.4 billion Vista Ridge Pipeline project that will pump water from Burleson County to San Antonio.

The vote was unanimous before a standing-room only crowd in a board room at SAWS headquarters, where trustees listened to public comments regarding the project.

The project, which will go before the San Antonio City Council for final approval in October, would bring 16.3 billion gallons of new water from the Carrizo and Simsboro aquifers by 2020 that SAWS said will provide water for 160,000 homes for decades.

"This water is needed to meet the growing demand of our city," said SAWS spokesman Greg Flores. "You can't build new growth without water."   

The contract with the Vista Ridge Consortium would provide SAWS with the largest water supply besides the Edwards Aquifer. 

"This new water supply will protect the Edwards Aquifer, prepare us for a drought of record, and help ensure the city's economic prosperity for our children and grandchildren," said Berto Guerra, SAWS Chairman and head of the SAWS negotiating team. "This is an unprecedented win-win partnership for our community that will secure San Antonio's water future for decades to come."

The Vista Ridge Consortium is a partnership between Abengoa and Blue Water Systems, which has assembled thousands of leases for water rights with landowners in Burleson County. 

According to SAWS, water from the Vista Ridge project will be delivered even in a severe drought. During the deepest stage of a drought, the city's access to the Edwards Aquifer is reduced by 42 percent.

Flores said the pipeline is the best option available for SAWS.

"This is currently the most-viable solution," Flores said. "We have other options, like desalinization, but at this point it's not realistic because we don't have permits for that kind of water. We can go to the ocean and desalinate ocean water but that is multiple times more expensive." 

While SAWS claims the project is a good deal, Michelle Gangness of the League of Independent Voters disagrees.

"No consideration has been given to how that water withdrawal will impact our Central Texas counties," Gangness said. "This is going to be a ruinous contract. The ratepayers in San Antonio don't deserve the kind of cost increase they're gong to be looking at."

SAWS officials said it's customers should expect a 3 to 4 percent increase in their bill.

To view the contract between SAWS and the Vista Ridge Consortium, click here.

About the Authors: