SAN ANTONIO – On May 9, the Edwards Aquifer Protection Plan, or Proposition One, will be up for San Antonio voters to renew. The program has been in place since 2000 and was renewed by voters in 2005 and 2010.
It allows the city of San Antonio to buy conservation easements over the Edwards Aquifer Recharge Zone, using an eighth of a cent sales tax. Landowners are contacted by the city and are voluntarily enrolled in the program. The city then pays around 40 percent to 45 percent of fair market value for the easement.
"So far, we have protected over 130,000 acres and that's in Bexar, Medina and Uvalde counties," said Susan Courage, management analyst for the Edwards Aquifer Protection Program.
Landowners still own the properties but agree not to develop or divide them up. The end result, according to Courage, is better quality and preservation of water, which is vital for San Antonio.
"Once you protect the development rights, we're always going to have that water protection and preservation," said Courage. "Eighty-five percent of our drinking water comes from the Edwards Aquifer."
Landowners Booker and Connie Young have been part of the program since 2005. Their ranch, which sits in a remote part of northern Medina County, 50 miles from San Antonio, has been in their family since the late 1800s.
"It's been a long legacy through many generations," Connie Young said.
Throughout the property, caves, sinkholes and other features feed the Edwards Aquifer. Water still flows across the property. The Youngs, who hoped to keep the land in the family, viewed the opportunity as a "win-win." They've used the money for upkeep of the land and believe it help preserve what they have for generations to come.
"It's dual purpose, here, for both of us," Connie Young said.
While most agree that the program is working to protect the future of water in San Antonio, it has been hard to quantify just how much it is helping. Around $90 million has been raised for each five-year period since 2005. That money goes toward buying up more easements and maintenance.
The Edwards Aquifer Authority assists the city in inspecting the more than 60 current easements to make sure landowners do their part to leave the properties unchanged.
"The owners, obviously, take great pride in their land, and for an overwhelming majority, they're doing a great job," said Brent Doty, who supervises the Edwards Aquifer Protection Program for the Edwards Aquifer Authority.
Voters opted to renew Proposition One by a significant margin in 2005 and 2010.