San Antonio program steps outside city limits to protect water source

SA buys easements from willing landowners to protect aquifer

By Justin Horne - Weather Authority Meteorologist/Reporter

NORTHERN UVALDE COUNTY, Texas - In a step to protect South Texas's greatest resource, the city of San Antonio is approaching landowners with a once-in-a-lifetime deal.

"There's no way over the valley except through that ridge," explained land owner Bob Hixon, while navigating his four-wheeler.

Finding Hixon's remote plot of land in northern Uvalde County is no easy task. 

When Hixon first bought the rugged 790-acre piece of Texas Hill Country, he hoped to one day live on it. However, it was not until he received a phone call from the City of San Antonio that he realized his land was far more important than he ever imagined.

"I had never really put two and two together," said Hixon. "That this area was so critical."

Hixon's land sits squarely in the Edward's Aquifer Recharge Zone and is home to two caves that feed into the aquifer.

"As the water recharges in these western counties, it ends up in the San Antonio pool, which is what the city calls from," said Grant Ellis, who heads up the Edwards Aquifer Protection Program for the City of San Antonio.

Starting in 2000 with money approved by voters, the city quietly began buying up land easements from willing land owners that sit in the vast recharge zone west of San Antonio -- including Hixson's. 

It is a voluntary program, but land owners have becoming increasingly responsive.

"It's a win-win all the way around," exclaimed Hixson.

Hixson saw it that way because he still owns his land. The only stipulation: little if any future development can occur on the plot of land. 

For the city's part, it is protecting its greatest natural resource by protecting what flows into the aquifer.

In just 12 years, the program has protected nearly 20 percent of the recharge zone.

"That's 90,000 acres of land that's not going to be developed and will allow recharge to occur forever," said Ellis.

That means Hixon's remote plot of land will remain that way: rugged and untouched, an uncontaminated window into the Edward's Aquifer. 

Meanwhile, it ensures clean a water source for years to come for San Antonio. 

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