San Antonio to Update Water Management Plan

A staff proposed update to San Antonio Water System's 50-Year Water Management Plan, led by President/ and Chief Executive Officer Robert R. Puente, was recently presented to the utility's Board of Trustees.

The proposed plan leverages the proven success of SAWS conservation, recycled water, and underground storage programs to effectively manage existing Edwards Aquifer and other supplies, while continuing to develop other water sources for further diversification.

SAWS will share its proposed plan with stakeholders over the next two months and seek input from around the region. The board is expected to consider formal adoption of the plan in April or May.

"I come to you with full confidence in the findings and recommendations for managing our current and future resources through 2060," Puente told the board.

In a change from its 2005 update, SAWS is proposing to use the "drought of record" from the 1950s as a worst-case-scenario benchmark. The 2009 plan also acknowledges the difficult regulatory environment surrounding groundwater supply efforts across Texas.

The proposal also advises moving forward with a brackish groundwater desalination program in southern Bexar County, to be expanded in the future. Other projects include Edwards Aquifer recharge enhancement and additional underground storage. Additionally, a feasibility study will explore ocean desalination. The plan also calls for a request for proposal to determine the availability of other regional groundwater supplies.

Existing supplies will meet demand under normal conditions through 2034. However, under "drought of record" conditions, SAWS could face a gap in permitted supply by 2014.

SAWS proposes seeking additional Edwards permits in the short-term, said Senior Vice President Kelley Neumann. "Remember, these rights are already owned and pumped by someone else and subject to drought cutbacks that protect the environment," she said.

The overall management strategy builds on the certainty of near-term supply options while continuing to study and evaluate longer-term, less certain possibilities.