Asked her for water, she gave me Listerine

Keeping the animals in line: SAWS Board Chairman minds the ring.

Greg Harman

[email protected]

Point one: If you are buying water in little plastic bottles, you're an idiot. Tough love, I know. But it's time get over all that insanity.

Point number two: We sit on an ocean of beautiful, crystal-clear freshwater (unless you live over in Leon Valley or nestled up against Kelly AFB) and have some of the best tap water in the nation. So why is our water utility talking about desalination of ocean water?

Excuse me while I get my chat-room acronyms in hand, but WTF?

As part of the San Antonio Water System's 50-year plan being trotted out to a variety of community groups over the next month or so, better minds than mine have been crunching a sea of statistics (assuming, of course, one crunches statistics, which are, at bottom, just numbers, right?).

These masters of hydromorphology who like to talk in terms of “load,” have determined that a shitload of people are going to keep moving to San Antonio â?? and each and every one of them are going to need water.

Now apparently to withhold said water to these future neighbors would be on par with some sort of genocidal war crime, so we are obligated to deliver this water, even if it means driving a pipeline to the Gulf of Mexico to get it for them.

For my money, these future new residents should have thought about drinking before they rented that U-Haul, but that's my uncharitability shining through.

Florida offers an innovative notion here: Taxing those who take local water out of state in million of shiny plastic insults.

Here's where that conversation starts:

Every day, Nestle Waters of North America sucks up an estimated 500,000 gallons from Madison Blue Springs, a limestone basin a mile north of town. It pipes the 70-degree water to its massive bottling plant and distribution center, fills 102,000 plastic containers an hour, pastes on Deer Park or Zephyrhills labels, boxes it up and ships half of it out of state.

The cost to the company for the water: a one-time $150 local water permit. Like 22 other bottled water companies in Florida, including giants Coca-Cola and Pepsi Co., Nestle's profit is 10 to 100 times the cost of each bottle.

And the payment to Florida? Not a dime.

Texas doesn't get squat from those who pump and bottle our water for export, either.

The Texas Water Development Board was instructed by our Lege last session to check it out as a potential “revenue stream,” but isn't including any potential tax on water bottlers in their departmental priorities this session, according to a source at the TWDB.

It's a shame. Seems to me that allowing bottlers to export our water for their profit doesn't exactly add up in the long equation.

Considering a drought on par with what the state experienced in the 1950s could sap our current supply by 2012, new funds will be needed.

But how do we plan to fund the rush of new taps? To not only "take care of our own," so to speak but keep up with migration?

Consider some options for funding light rail being explored at the county level, included in one recently filed bill. They'd allow for taxing you for the number of car miles driven, the size of your engine, or foulness of your emissions.

Another option would have new residents footing the bill as they seek to set up shelter here.

If we don't figure it out soon, SAWS is prepared to run that pipeline to the Coast, and you and I can kiss any semblance of an affordable bill on bubbly goodbye.

Expanding desal operations in South Bexar County is likely going to happen one way or another, but cleaning up seawater is a much more expensive and energy-intensive activity.

The difference for ratepayers may boil down to paying an extra $80 or $100 per month for water inside of 16 years.

SAWS' current 50-year plan is expected to cost about $3.5 billion, all told. If we are forced to jump to ocean desal, however, it would jump to $4.47 billion.

“I think we'll be able to find a source of water that is less expensive than that,” one presenter told SAWS board yesterday, while suggesting ocean desal could be an alternative “maybe in 60 years.”

Can hardly wait.

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