Feb 15, 2001

San Antonio to Gain Nearly 4 Trillion Gallons of Water From Colorado River

The Express-News Austin Bureau reported that on Feb. 14, lawmakers took the next step needed to help San Antonio gain nearly four trillion gallons of water from the Colorado River over the next 80 years.

The legislation is necessary to allow the transfer of water from one area of the state to another, under rules set by Senate Bill 1. That landmark 1997 legislation created a regional approach to water development and set up a mechanism to end Texas' internecine fighting over water.

The San Antonio Water System (SAWS), the city's largest water utility, and the Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA) are among the first to explore the possibilities.

They agreed on a deal last month that would provide SAWS with up to 150,000 acre-feet (about 49 billion gallons) of water a year for up to 80 years and would supply 330,000 additional acre-feet of water annually in the Colorado basin.

Identical bills were filed Wednesday in the House and Senate to amend the 1934 legislative act that created the LCRA. Essentially, the legislation will allow the LCRA to sell water outside its basin. The SAWS-LCRA pact requires legislative approval to go forward.

Texas Agriculture Commissioner Susan Combs attended the news conference and said the pact will protect downriver agriculture interests as well as wildlife.

Wentworth said Wednesday that the pact calls for a seven-year study period, noting that while environmentalists may not yet be on board: "We have seven years to address their issues."

The deal, which is expected to cost SAWS ratepayers $1 billion, will also create four huge floodwater retention ponds in Colorado, Matagorda and Wharton counties; line irrigation canals with concrete to conserve water; and develop water-efficient varieties of rice that should cut water needs.