Pipeline project raises water fears
By LPR Staff
Late last year, the San Antonio City Council approved a $3.4 billion, 142-mile pipeline project that will drain water supplies from the Carrizo-Wilcox Aquifer via a pump site in Burleson County. The project, which proposes to tap approximately 50,000 acre-feet, is expected to increase water availabili
ty to the San Antonio Water System (SAWS) by more than 20 percent, and provide enough water for more than 162,000 new families.
Caldwell County is caught in the crossfire of the battle between the “Davids,” the property owners and water districts in Burleson, Lee and Bastrop Counties, and “Goliath,” the urban water giant. Why? The proposed pipeline stretches through Caldwell County, and has prompted the Central Texas Regional Water Supply Corporation to demand entry to several Caldwell County properties to review their suitability for the construction project.
The Texas League of Independent Voters stands center stage in the battle. On Tuesday, they hosted a meeting in Lockhart to generate support for their opposition of the project, reminding property owners and others in attendance that the water belongs to us all.
“This project will be funded by the rate payers, not by the developers,” said Michele Gangnes, a Lee County attorney and property owner who said her water conservation district is small, but courageous, in fighting against this pipeline project. “And we need to work together to find a way to make development pay for itself.”
House Representative John Cyrier (R-Lockhart) was on hand for the meeting, and said that while he would not say outright whether he is for or against the project at large, his stand on private property rights is clear.
“The biggest fight we have [in the House] right now is water,” he said. “And it’s a complicated issue. But we are right in the middle of this fight.”
Advocates for the pipeline project claim it is necessary for growth and development in the San Antonio area, and moving forward will ensure continuing prosperity in the rapidly growing metropolitan area.
“We have to support our community’s expansive growth and diverse economy while also protecting the Edwards Aquifer,” said SAWS chairman Heriberto Guerra, Jr. “That’s why we need to provide non-Edwards water supplies that are not only sufficient, but abundant for years to come.”
Political activist and Texas League of Independent Voters Executive Director Linda Curtis, however, claims the proposed 50,000 acre-feet is far more than “sufficient” for the needs of SAWS.
“Originally, they asked for 20,000 acre feet,” she said. “They don’t need 50.”
Curtis claims that SAWS plans to use the water acquired via the pipeline to fuel growth in the I-35 Corridor, not to help San Antonio, and that the consequences will be dire, not only for San Antonio rate payers, but for the environment on the whole.
Under state law, private property owners are entitled to sell the water beneath their property, and according to SAWS data, more than 3,400 property owners in Burleson County have already entered agreements for the sale of the water. However, Gangnes and Curtis maintain that it is the responsibility of Water Conservation Districts to protect those water sources, not only for property owners within their district, but for the good of the State at large.
The Texas League of Independent Voters will continue to host meetings and gather information and support in an effort to block the Vista Ridge Pipeline project. Follow future editions of the Post-Register for news on this developing story, and additional information on the impact for local property owners.