Although I am often caught off-guard by unexpected questions at the campaign debates (How can the City achieve its no-kill objective? What do you think about the City’s tree ordinance?), there are a few questions that are asked at virtually every debate:
- Should the City have light-rail/streetcars?
- Did you support Pre-K 4 SA?
- What do you think about SAWS’s 8.4% rate increase?
Earlier today, SAWS (San Antonio Water System) held a Meet & Greet for City Council candidates. The event was titled, “SAWS: What Every Leader Needs to Know.” Although the event would have been more helpful if it had been scheduled earlier in the campaign, it’s better late than never.
Among the interesting things I learned:
- Because of infrastructure deficiencies, the 8.4% rate increase this year might be followed by 13.5%, 9%, 6%, and 6.2% in the next four years.
- The Wilcox aquifer provides great promise for water in the future, provided we are willing to process this brackish water with desalination and can get the legislature to approve more pumping.
- SAWS will decide later this year whether any of four proposed water-pipeline projects are viable.
- San Antonio has been acting unilaterally to acquire conservation easements covering almost 130,000 acres.
- Because of conservation successes for the past 25 years, San Antonio’s total water usage has not increased even though its population has dramatically increased.
- Other than El Paso, San Antonio has cheaper water than any other large city in Texas.
Despite this additional information, however, my position with respect to the rate increases will remain the same in upcoming debates – namely, the increase suggests that SAWS management has made significant mistakes, but denying the requested rate increases will not correct those mistakes. President Reagan tried to “starve the beast,” and that didn’t work. Instead, the SAWS board, which is appointed by the City Council, needs to be held accountable.