San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro, Chamber Vice President of Public Affairs Liza Barratachea, and San Antonio Water System (SAWS) Chairman Berto Guerra and President Robert Puente celebrated the water utility’s newest water resource project, a brackish groundwater program that will help meet San Antonio’s future water needs at their new desalination well site on March 27.
The Chamber has been a long-standing champion for safe, reliable and affordable water and actively supports SAWS’ continued efforts to diversify water resources and reduce our reliance on the Edwards Aquifer.
The thirteen production wells in southern Bexar County, drilled more than 1,500 feet deep, will pump brackish water from the Wilcox Aquifer. The salty water will then be treated for drinking water standards using a reverse osmosis water treatment facility that is planned to be adjacent to SAWS’ Aquifer Storage and Recovery site.
When the first phase of the project is complete in 2016, the $145 million project will produce 10 million gallons per day of non-Edwards water for San Antonio. Two more expansions are planned, one in 2021 and the final phase in 2026, providing another 15 million gallons of water per day.
Previous attempts to get brackish water out of Wilson and Atascosa counties have been met with strong local opposition. For this project, SAWS opted to locate the wells in Bexar County, where there is no groundwater district, and drilling below the fresh water in the Carrizo Aquifer to the unregulated brackish water in the Wilcox Aquifer.
A great benefit of brackish groundwater is that it is a firm supply, not subject to cutbacks during drought like the Edwards Aquifer is. Additionally, the State estimates there are 2.7 billion acre-feet of such water - enough to cover all of Texas with more than 15 feet of water. However, the cost of treating and pumping the water uphill to San Antonio makes it cost about five times as much as water from the Edwards Aquifer.
“We are thankful to have such a fine water utility, and we are proud of its continued commitment to diversification and innovation and for constantly working to ensure our city’s water supply for the future,” Chamber President & CEO Richard Perez said of SAWS.