What if you couldn’t make your cup of coffee this morning? What if you couldn’t wash a load of laundry? What if you couldn’t bathe your children this evening?
Today, the Value of Water Coalition urges us to “Imagine a Day Without Water.” This initiative is designed to help us not only understand the value of water, but also the personal impact water has on our daily lives. We turn on the tap, and we receive reliable, great-tasting water. When we are finished, it goes down the drain and we hardly give it another thought. Most of us aren’t aware of the vast infrastructure and constant work that goes into ensuring San Antonio has vital water and sewer services. Yet the work goes on day and night to ensure our community doesn’t have to worry about access to water, and that we have enough for our children and grandchildren.
As mayor and a San Antonio Water System board member, I know first-hand how our nationally recognized water utility tirelessly prepares for the future of this city.
This region’s first-of-its-kind Vista Ridge Project is a bold public-private venture that will provide 20 percent more water for the city for the next 30 years and beyond — while locking in the cost at today’s cheaper price. Vista Ridge will start delivering water by 2020 while protecting the drought-sensitive Edwards Aquifer, which remains our primary water source.
Another proactive water project is our brackish desalination plant that takes the slightly salty water beneath our feet and filters it to drinking water standards. When it comes on line this fall, it will deliver 12 million gallons of water per day and ultimately 30 million gallons of water per day by 2026, making it the largest inland desalination plant in the U.S.
These two novel projects complement our existing Aquifer Storage & Recovery (ASR) operation in South Bexar County which holds more than 100,000 acre-feet (or more than 32 billion gallons of water) for use during drought. Think of it as a water savings account we can dip into to stave off severe water restrictions.
The city’s well-publicized conservation ethic has resulted in a record low gallon-per-day usage at 118 in 2015, despite our population almost doubling over the past 35 years. These results dictate continued investment in our proven conservation programs instead of entertaining calls for untested methods with uncertain ramifications.
Yet, even as we discuss these innovative water projects that will keep us water secure for decades to come, our commitment to affordability remains a top priority.
Not only do we have the second-lowest rates among major Texas cities, but this year we adopted a “lifeline” rate that rewards customers who use 2,992 gallons or less per month with the lowest rate possible, making water even more affordable. That usage covers basic indoor uses such as water for drinking, showering and washing clothes.
SAWS also doubled the budget of its bill assistance program called Project Agua in 2016. This program offers payment assistance (for those who qualify) to ensure everyone has access to clean water. This program is in addition to the record 20,000 households who are enrolled in our Affordability Discount program, which provides a monthly discount based on income and household size.
Water is essential to every aspect of our lives, and I am so proud of the work we have done to make San Antonio “Waterful.” In San Antonio, we are very fortunate that we don’t have to imagine a day without clean, affordable water.
Ivy R. Taylor is mayor of San Antonio.
This article originally was posted by Express-News, MySA.