Aquifer Protection Funding Would Be Cut in Half if San Antonio Moves It Under SAWS Control

Courtesy of The Edwards Aquifer Authority
In a potential speed bump for Mayor Ron Nirenberg's ConnectSA, the Express-News is reporting that one aspect of the proposed transportation plan would cut funding for the city's aquifer protection program by half.

Mayor Ron Nirenberg has promoted turning over aquifer protection to the San Antonio Water System to free up some $40 million in annual revenue to expand bus service under ConnectSA. That maneuver — which requires voter approval — would shift the 1/8 cent sales tax that currently funds aquifer protection to VIA Metropolitan Transit's coffers.

Yesterday, SAWS CEO Robert Puente told the city-owned utility's board that under that proposition, the aquifer protection program would get slightly over half its current funding of around $100 million over five years, the E-N reports.

“It’s not that we’re not interested,” in continuing the current funding level, Puente told the daily. “We’re incapable of spending that kind of money.”

Nirenberg has defended the reallocation by pointing out that other Texas cities fund their transit systems with a full cent of sales tax, while VIA receives just half a cent. Expanded bus service, he argues, is key to future-proofing the city's transportation system.

But environmental groups worry the funding shift would jeopardize the Edwards Aquifer, which provides 80% of the city's drinking water. What's more, the protection program remains popular, having been approved by local voters four times in the past two decades.

Puente's revelation is likely to give more fuel to both of those arguments.

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