For over 20 years, San Antonio residents have supported the expense of protecting the Edwards Aquifer, which accounts for 80 percent of San Antonio’s drinking water. In doing so, we have protected the local economy, as well as our major freshwater source. This protection has come through a small percentage of our sales taxes being directed to the Edwards Aquifer Protection Program (EAPP). This November, that may be in jeopardy.
As community leaders, we are deeply concerned that the Edwards Aquifer Authority will be unable to survive the irresponsible redirection of sales tax funding from EAPP to the mayor’s workforce development program proposed under Proposition B, which would reallocate a portion of our sales tax to workforce development with a plan to cover the shortfall that doesn’t fully address concerns over a sustained source of funding. The plan for the City to pick up aquifer protection as part of its annual budget doesn’t guarantee the same level of funding, and the decision to continue to fund aquifer protection will be relegated to future councils.
Despite the City’s 10-year plan for funding, experts agree that Proposition B will mean a shortage of funding for the aquifer. “That’s still less funding for the EAPP,” said Annalisa Peace, executive director of the Greater Edwards Aquifer Alliance, “because a dollar today will be worth less in 2023, especially as land values increase.” If the workforce development and VIA sales taxes are approved, she said, voters need to know that “opportunity to fund greenway and aquifer protection with a sales tax is gone forever.”
The City has only recently released a 17-page preliminary plan outlining the program in broad strokes. The plan doesn’t provide the kind of detail that would assure voters that it’s worth the loss of funding for the aquifer. In a recent Bexar Facts poll, respondents were in favor of funding workforce development, but support for the workforce development measure dropped when the source of the aquifer funding was explained. The real issue isn’t the virtue of workforce development, it’s the diversion of monies away from aquifer protection.
Over the years, SAWS has developed other sources of water, but to lose the Edwards Aquifer through depletion or pollution would be disastrous. The aquifer must be properly managed and protected, and that requires proper funding. While workforce development is important, it is wholly irrelevant without a clean water supply.
Even the mayor himself acknowledges in his recent commentary that the new plan “passed by Council must be viewed as one tool within a needed, longer-term and more comprehensive strategy” to protect this irreplaceable resource. He goes on to say it is critical that discussions on the EAPP continue in order to develop broader, coherent strategies; local and regional mitigation plans; and policies and incentives to ensure that effective aquifer safeguards are in place for the long term.
In essence, the mayor acknowledges the shortcomings of this new plan, while concurrently robbing EAPP of its funding to pay for this new workforce development idea that doesn’t even have a proposed structure. The lasting effects of taking away funding while merely hoping future councils will be tasked with addressing this problem is no way to guard our civic institutions.
The people of our community elected to protect the Edwards Aquifer through our sales tax, and we should continue to do so until the City of San Antonio, Edwards Aquifer Authority, and SAWS can work together on a viable plan that will provide long-term support and funding for managing and protecting our freshwater supply. Accordingly, we strongly urge all voters to vote no on Proposition B.
San Antonio Report is a nonpartisan news organization and does not support or endorse political candidates or ballot propositions.