SAN ANTONIO--(BUSINESS WIRE)--The SAWS Board of Trustees authorized staff today to appear as a party in a lawsuit filed last month in Travis County by the Guadalupe Blanco River Authority (GBRA). SAWS officials expressed disappointment in the lawsuit intended to circumvent the public evaluation of GBRA’s controversial Lower Basin water project as well as that of a “bed and banks” application submitted by SAWS to the State of Texas.
GBRA’s legal action seeks to block efforts by SAWS to deliver 50,000 acre-feet per year of water for instream uses to the coastal bays and estuaries, and seeks to give GBRA full control of San Antonio’s valuable treated wastewater effluent in the future. In effect, GBRA is positioning to eliminate all critical freshwater flows from reaching the bays and estuaries and sell all water essential for the environment to GBRA customers.
Contrary to GBRA’s position, SAWS contends that the bed and banks authorization SAWS has requested from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) will have little or no impact on GBRA’s access to existing water permits. However, the nature and extent of the impact is an issue to be analyzed by TCEQ staff and determined by the Commission.
A careful review of the SAWS application by TCEQ would provide extensive opportunity for public input, discussion and challenge by third parties such as GBRA.
“This is an issue that should be resolved through an established open and public process. SAWS has undertaken an application that provides an opportunity for essential public scrutiny,” stated Robert R. Puente, SAWS President and CEO. “However, rather than welcome and participate in the TCEQ public process, GBRA has sued itself in an Austin courtroom, invoking a little-known judicial procedure in an attempt to cut off open discussion before it begins.”
Last month’s lawsuit contends that San Antonio cannot reuse wastewater transported out of the Edwards Aquifer region, prohibiting contributions for instream and environmental uses outside of Bexar County.
SAWS treated wastewater effluent is a valuable asset, developed at great cost to San Antonio ratepayers. Properly managed, it can provide an invaluable benefit to the environment and downstream interests, while still meeting the needs of the city.
The action filed by GBRA in Travis County is a summary process that relies on stealth and surprise to achieve a pre-determined outcome at the expense of careful analysis and enlightened public discourse.
“This lawsuit is an abuse of a state statute intended for financial bond validation,” stated Puente. “GBRA has not yet issued the bonds they seek to validate through court action. Even the amount of money to be borrowed is unknown.”
Since 1992, San Antonio Water System has been a leader in innovative water management strategies, making San Antonio water’s most resourceful city. Water and wastewater services are provided to more than 1.6 million consumers in the San Antonio region.