Water is one of the most important resources on earth. We depend on water from the moment we wake up to the moment we go to bed. As a mother of four adult children, I worry about how the diminishing supply of water will affect my children and future grandchildren’s quality of life.
My sons will begin their dental practice in a few short years while my daughter is studying to be a nurse – jobs that would be impossible to do successfully without a reliable water source. Even my third son’s career as a certified public accountant requires reliable water to continue operating a professional, safe and hygienic business. All businesses need water to pass inspections and stay in business. So when I see Texas listed as one of the most water scarce states, or hear “water shortage” and “San Antonio” in the same sentence, it grabs my attention and causes a certain level of concern.
Our city’s unique culture has made it one of the most family oriented places to live. With a growing number of first-rate higher education institutions in San Antonio and our thriving economic development, our future generations will have more professional career opportunities than ever before, but we need a water plan that is progressive and forward thinking. The good news is that our city leaders already have a major piece of that plan ready. It is called Vista Ridge.
Progressive projects like the Vista Ridge Pipeline are exactly the types of projects that will help protect existing sources, diversify our water resources and directly invest in the success of our city and ultimately, our future generation. Vista Ridge is a 142-mile pipeline that will be built underground to deliver 20% of San Antonio’s water needs for the next 30 years and beyond, significantly decreasing our reliance on the Edwards Aquifer and protecting its endangered species habitat.
Not only is it environmentally sound, but it will also provide relief to our community from severe drought cycles. The water will come from the abundant Carrizo-Wilcox Aquifer located in sparsely populated Burleson and Milam counties. This aquifer contains more than 12 times the amount of water in all Texas lakes combined and is considered drought resistant because it has never been under drought restriction.
While San Antonio has the lowest water utility rates of any major city in Texas, it is currently estimated that the average residential bill will be $88 in 2020, of which no more than $12 will be needed to pay for the water provided through this project. That is an investment I am willing to make in my children’s future and our city’s prosperity.
And while the San Antonio Water System (SAWS) plans for the future water demands of its ratepayers, it is encouraging to see that they have implemented and enhanced affordability programs to assist low-income families. The new rate structure now also includes a “lifeline” rate that all ratepayers can benefit from – based on volume, not income. Residents who conserve water and use less than 300 cubic feet (3 ccf) or about 75 gallons per day during their monthly billing cycle will be billed at a lower rate. Additionally, any risk related to the delivery of water will not fall on the SAWS ratepayer because San Antonio only pays for the water that is used.
The Vista Ridge Pipeline Project received unanimous support from the San Antonio City Council last year because it is a great example of a well-negotiated and coordinated plan to sustain our growing population and meet increasing water demands.
It is now our responsibility to support this project and support the SAWS rate increase needed to help fund the project. As professor Dennis Culhane once said, “Extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures.” And these are extraordinary times in which we must allow San Antonio to stay ahead of a water crisis and safeguard this most important resource for our children and future generations.
*Top image: A worker installs a portion of pipeline. Photo courtesy of SAWS Facebook page.
Open Letter: A Critical Look at the SAWS-Vista Ridge Contract
Sierra Club: San Antonio Doesn’t Need Vista Ridge Pipeline
Council United on SAWS-Vista Ridge Water Deal