City Council Approves $3.4 Billion Water Deal

This screen grab of a City Council meeting shows San Antonio Water System President and CEO Robert Puente answering questions as protestors stand behind him. - San Antonio Current
San Antonio Current
This screen grab of a City Council meeting shows San Antonio Water System President and CEO Robert Puente answering questions as protestors stand behind him.

The San Antonio City Council unanimously approved a contract Thursday between San Antonio Water System and the Vista Ridge Consortium to pump in water from Burleson County.

The Vista Ridge Consortium is comprised of the Spanish-based company Abengoa and Austin-based Blue Water.

Here's how this is supposedly going to work: Abengoa will build a 142-mile pipeline from Burleson County to Bexar County. The $3.4 billion will get SAWS a 30-year supply of water, 50,000 acre-feet, which equates to more than 16 billion gallons of water. 

Blue Water holds water leases acquired from landowners in Burleson County and the surrounding area. That's where the water will come from.

The deal is part of the City and SAWS' efforts to diversify their water portfolio so that the Alamo City has resources that aren't just the Edwards Aquifer. 

What does this mean for you? It means expect SAWS to increase its rates in the next few years. Right now, according to City of San Antonio Chief Financial Officer Ben Gorzell, the average residential water bill today is $55.72. In 2020, when accounting for all of SAWS' other projects, but not the Vista Ridge Pipeline, the average residential bill is estimated to be $76.12. With the Vista Ridge Pipeline, tack on another $12 or so and the average bill is estimated to be $88.22.

And to be sure, a host of people spoke to City Council opposing the Vista Ridge Pipeline. Many of those concerns included rates rising while income stays stagnant. And nearly everyone who spoke in support of the pipeline was involved with a chamber of commerce, real estate or construction. Interesting, isn't it? That's why we need to pipe in all this water because San Antonio, according to the City and SAWS, is expected to keep on growing and sprawling. And that's something that critics pointed out, proponents of the project who are in real estate, construction or involved with a chamber of commerce stand to make a lot of money if that many people are coming to San Antonio. However, those people still might come to the Alamo City regardless of whether the Vista Ridge pipeline is built.

SAWS, however, has the ability to pull out of the contract in the next 30 months. But if it does, the utility will have to reimburse Abengoa $40 million.

Be sure to check out the next issue of the Current where we will take a hard look at this deal and what it means for San Antonio and its tax payers.

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