The San Antonio Water System on Monday will announce it is dropping three very controversial privately funded projects to pipe in millions of gallons of water from across the region, and will instead focus on expanding its successful water desalination efforts, 1200 WOAI news reports.
"Brackish groundwater is plentiful and unused in our region, and available for centuries," SAWS President Robert Puente said.
SAWS plans to contract with three private groundwater projects to bring in water supplies from as far as 150 miles away had become mired in controversy and threats of lawsuits. The most unpopular was one plan that would pipe in water from Dimmit and Val Verde Counties to San Antonio. It was roundly denounced as a 'water grab,' and was greeted by street protects in Del Rio, threats of lawsuits, and promises by lawmakers that they would scuttle the plan in the State Legislature.
Puente said water law in Texas is uncertain, and the private developers were, in many cases, unwilling to assume the risk of water being cut off by the groundwater districts that regular supply.
"We were unwilling to ask our ratepayers to absorb the cost of a project with potentially no water," he said.
The $85 million a year projects were created as a way to shift the financial burden of water projects away from ratepayers to private investors. But Puente says he will recommend on Monday that the projects be dropped.
SAWS will instead 'double down' on it's so far successful desalination efforts. The utility has announced plans to partner with CPS Energy to build a natural gas plant on the site of the desalination plant which is already in operation in south Best County, and will expand desalination efforts as necessary.
Puente said desalination projects tap into unused brackish water which is not being used for any other purpose and is not regulated like the Edwards Aquifer is regulated. He says desalination does not involve nearly as many state regulations as does efforts to pipe in water from far away.
SAWS also praised the Aquifer Storage and Recovery facility, the so-called 'water bank,' which has enabled the region to avoid stricter water rationing during the thee year long drought.