Unlike San Antonio, Austin not yet looking to pipeline projects to meet water needs

IndustriesAssociated Press

San Antonio is preparing to move forward on a pipeline that could eventually skirt Austin as it brings water to the thirsty Alamo City. But officials in the Texas capital aren't interested in participating in the project, according to a published report Sunday.

As other Central Texas communities mull piping in water to meet growing needs, Austin is largely foregoing pipelines. That goes for the San Antonio pipeline proposal, which the local water board will vote on in late September and could cost $3.3 billion. It will move underground water from beneath Burleson County to points east and south, according to the Austin American Statesman (http://bit.ly/1vYCWk2 ).

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Foregoing such plans means Austin will rely even more heavily on the Colorado River — just as San Antonio depends more on underground water. The Colorado has been crippled by a shortage of inflows from its tributaries amid droughts. But forecasters say this fall and winter may be wetter than normal.

The San Antonio project could increase the city's water supplies by a fifth, providing enough water for 162,000 families. The city plans to partner with private supplier Blue Water Systems. The firm has already secured the rights to pump 71,000 acre-feet of water per year to from Burleson County. An acre-foot is roughly the amount of water consumed by four Austin households annually.

The pipeline would be built by Abengoa Water USA, a subsidiary of a Spanish company. The project is set to tap into a pipeline already controlled by Blue Water which terminates in Manor, a few miles from Austin's own pipe system.

That hasn't been enough to convince Austin to get involved, though.

"We're keeping ourselves informed of groundwater options, but we're not engaging in any negotiations with groundwater suppliers or with San Antonio," said Greg Meszaros, head of the Austin Water Utility.

Instead, Austin is doubling-down on the Colorado River, investing in a water treatment plant in the northwest part of the city which added $1 billion in debt that the water utility must pay back over 30 years.

In July, water flowing into Central Texas' chief reservoirs was only 16 percent of the normal amount.

But the National Weather Service has declared at least a 65 percent chance of a weak to moderate El Nino, the weather phenomenon that typically means rainier-than-normal falls and winters for Texas.


Information from: Austin American-Statesman, http://www.statesman.com