SAWS: Edwards Aquifer - Pumping Rights Acquisition
Aquifer Beaker

Edwards Aquifer

Aquifer Level 664.6'
2/19/18 - Official

The Edwards aquifer and its catchment area in the San Antonio region is about 8,000 square miles and includes all or part of 13 counties in south-central Texas.

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Year-Round Watering Hours

Watering with an irrigation system or sprinkler is allowed any day of the week before 11 a.m. or after 7 p.m.

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Aquifer Level 664.6 | Year-Round Watering Hours


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Pumping Rights Acquisition

Edwards Aquifer - Pumping Rights Acquisition

Currently, more than 90 percent of drinking water used by SAWS customers comes from the Edwards Aquifer. The Edwards Aquifer Authority (EAA) issued water rights through an established permitting process, and today, SAWS has access to approximately 52 percent (295,000 acre-feet) of those rights.

Access to these permitted groundwater withdrawal rights is subject to varying levels of availability depending on drought restrictions. These cutbacks in any given year may range from 0 percent to 44 percent. Overall, the aquifer can provide a firm yield of 119,887 acre-feet of the total water resources available to SAWS, during worst-case drought conditions.

This wonderful resource has been the mainstay for this community since its inception, and SAWS continues to review other opportunities in which it can maximize its allocations of the Edwards supply.

Edwards Aquifer Management

In 1993, the Texas Legislature created the EAA to manage groundwater withdrawals from the Edwards Aquifer and provide for appropriate springflow during drought periods. The EAA implemented a permitting system based on historic use of the Edwards Aquifer and regulates and limits withdrawals from the Edwards Aquifer during periods of drought.

In 2007, the Texas Legislature passed Senate Bill 3, establishing a regional pumping cap of 572,000 acre-feet of Edwards Aquifer withdrawals. Senate Bill 3 also incorporated restrictions on withdrawal limits during drought periods, making these restrictions state law. In addition, the Texas Legislature prescribed a Recovery Implementation Program (RIP) for the Edwards Aquifer region. The RIP identified and evaluated methods to protect threatened and endangered species associated with the Edwards Aquifer, as required by state and federal law. After much deliberation, the RIP stakeholders recommended, and the EAA and other parties ultimately approved, the Edwards Aquifer Habitat Conservation Plan (EAHCP).

SAWS will be playing a significant role related to the EAHCP. This effort is a proactive plan to balance all the human interests which depend on the Edwards Aquifer, San Antonio's cornerstone water resource, and the Federal Endangered Species Act. The plan will allow human interests to co-exist with the protection and recovery of endangered species dependent on Edwards Aquifer springflows. The passage of this EAHCP, currently under consideration by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) will be a major new chapter and will play a key role in the protection of the Edwards Aquifer for all stakeholders and future success can be built off this action.

The USFWS' Environmental Impact Statement identifies the EAHCP as the preferred alternative and there are good indications that an Incidental Take Permit (ITP) will be issued to the applicants prior to the end of 2012 and the EAHCP will be implemented. An ITP is important to SAWS and other applicants to allow the human use of the Edwards Aquifer to continue, while assuring endangered aquatic species associated with the aquifer and its springs will be protected during droughts.

In addition to these developments, in 2011 the ratepayers of the former Bexar Metropolitan Water District (BMWD) voted to incorporate the district into SAWS. In the first quarter of 2012, the final state and federal clearances were obtained, and SAWS assumed responsibility for all aspects of the former BMWD. The former district brought with it its own portfolio of Edwards Aquifer water rights, which are now included in SAWS' water resources portfolio.

Acquisition of Additional Edwards Aquifer Supplies

Under the direction of the SAWS Board of Trustees, SAWS continues to acquire Edwards Aquifer water rights through lease or purchase. SAWS' goal is to continue to maintain its current inventory of Edwards Aquifer leases (approximately 44,975** acre-feet at the time of issuance) by renewing existing leases as they expire or by purchasing water rights. SAWS also has pending plans to acquire an additional 10,900 acre-feet of Edwards Aquifer water rights in the years to come.

Managing this wonderfully prolific, highly variable resource is one example of what makes San Antonio Water's Most Resourceful City.

* An acre-foot of water is equivalent to 325,851 gallons.

** This total includes leased water rights from both SAWS and the former BexarMet.