We’re keeping a close eye on San Antonio water project
By Dave Coleman, Water Services Director
Last October, the San Antonio City Council approved a contract with a joint venture named Vista Ridge to supply 50,000 acre-feet per year of Simsboro aquifer water to the San Antonio Water System (SAWS).
Since we rely on the Simsboro aquifer for 99 percent of our drinking water, we’re paying close attention to the project. By comparison, combined water use by College Station, Bryan, and Texas A&M is typically about 36,000 acre-feet per year. All three entities are in the Brazos Valley Groundwater Conservation District.
Vista Ridge is able to offer that much water to SAWS because it’s obtained sufficient well permits from the Post Oak Savannah Groundwater Conservation District (POSGCD). The permits are based on several thousand water rights leases that Vista Ridge has signed with landowners in Burleson County.
Since groundwater is private property in Texas, these landowners are fully within their rights to sell the water under their property.
Desired Future Conditions
The POSGCD can allow Vista Ridge to pump 50,000 acre-feet/year because current water production in the district is far from reaching the maximum allowable. The maximum withdrawal is determined through a process called Desired Future Conditions (DFC), which is conducted jointly with other groundwater districts, including the Brazos Valley district.
Our district works with the POSGCD to establish DFCs because both districts overlie the Simsboro aquifer. We have a mutual interest in how the water supply is managed.
The state legislature established groundwater conservation districts to regulate the withdrawal of groundwater and ensure that our aquifers will be viable supplies in perpetuity. Prudent management of groundwater resources includes keeping actual water production within the DFC. If the district’s find excessive drawdown, they restrict pumping to keep the aquifer from being depleted.
Delivery System is Private
If Vista Ridge can raise the $850 million it needs to execute the drilling of wells and construction of the 142-mile pipeline and pump stations, it plans to deliver the full amount of water to San Antonio by 2019. Under the contract, SAWS will pay Vista Ridge for all water delivered up to 50,000 acre-feet per year but has no obligation to make payments for water not delivered.
In other words, it isn’t a take-or-pay contract. The construction of the water delivery system is entirely private, meaning that SAWS will not sell bonds, nor will SAWS purchase any pipeline easements.
We must make certain that the two groundwater districts, POSGCD and BVGCD, don’t allow excessive drawdown of the Simsboro aquifer. We’ll continue to closely track this project to ensure the districts implement cutbacks if the drawdown reaches its trigger limits.
Prior to this project, projections showed the trigger limits being reached in 99 years.
Map Source: San Antonio Water System
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