News Feature | February 4, 2014

Utility Seeks Ownership Of Treated Water After It's Released Into River

By Sara Jerome

RiverReg

San Antonio wants more control over its wastewater.

"A bid by San Antonio’s water utility to declare ownership of the sewage it treats and releases has sparked a regional tug-of-war — one that could become more common as Texas’ thirsty water users struggle to protect their supplies," the Texas Tribune reported.

The backdrop: "Every year, SAWS treats close to 33 billion gallons of wastewater and discharges it into the San Antonio River. (Another 8 billion gallons are treated and used by golf courses and industrial customers.) Because Texas water law says all surface water is owned by the state, the city effectively cedes ownership of it once it is released into the river," the report said. 

In a nutshell, here's what SAWS is seeking: “What we’d like to do is to get authorization to retain ownership of [our] water, even after it’s put into the river,” said San Antonio Water System (SAWS) spokesman Greg Flores in the Tribune. “We do own that asset. Our ratepayers own that asset.”

"SAWS operates the largest direct recycled water system in the United States," the San Antonio Business Journal reported

The opposition to this idea includes "water users downstream from San Antonio's wastewater treatment plant," according to the Tribune.  They say the effort, if approved, "could severely limit their water resources, especially in times of drought. The San Antonio River flows into the Guadalupe River and then down to San Antonio Bay, and many significant water users lie along that route," the Tribune said. 

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) is expected to weigh in on the issue, according to the Victoria Advocate

If the TCEQ approves San Antonio's proposal, agencies other than SAWS would not be able to take the wastewater that SAWS treats out of the river, the utility's spokesman Greg Flores said in the report. 

He added that the water system does not know "if TCEQ allows other agencies to draw out the water it puts into the river currently. But the authorization would ensure San Antonio's reclaimed water flows the 250-mile route to the bay and coastal estuaries, which support important Texas wildlife," the Advocate reported.

Image credit: "River," © 2010 Moyan_Brenn, used under a Attribution 2.0 Generic license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

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