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San Antonio Water Proposals See Opposition From Laredo

A water fight is brewing between San Antonio and smaller cities along the border. The San Antonio Water System, the principal utility for Bexar County, is seeking proposals to fulfill its water needs starting in 2018 by reducing dependancy on the Edwards Aquifer. Several have come up, including a plan to use groundwater from Val Verde County purchased by the Val Verde Water Company.
 
Now the Laredo City Council is against the project. The San Felipe Springs is the main water source for the City of Del Rio and Val Verde County. The spring gains some of its water from groundwater underneath the land of ranchers in Val Verde County and surrounding counties. The water then in turn feeds into the Rio Grande which supplies water to the communities and ecosystems further south along the border including Laredo. The siphoning of water has communities along the border fearing that the use of the groundwater will take away vital flow from drought-stricken rural communities.
 
The Laredo council expressed opposition to the proposed project at its Monday meeting. From the Laredo Morning Times:
 

San Antonio is looking to purchase more than 16 billion gallons of water a year from ranchers north of Del Rio, which officials and environmental groups say could affect the health of the Rio Grande as well as Laredo’s future water supply. “Legally they’re within their rights to buy those water rights,” said Councilman Roque Vela Jr. “The system is broken. One of the reasons why the Rio Grande is in danger is precisely because its water is over allocated. This is a problem that needs to be fixed at the state level.” Vela suggested creating a coalition between Del Rio, Laredo and other municipalities downstream from San Felipe to buy the water rights from ranchers before San Antonio. “All we can do is beat them to the punch and buy the water rights ourselves,” Vela said. City Councilman Charlie San Miguel said the council plans on filing a formal protest with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and the Texas Water Development Board. “We’re going to fight it,” he said. “We also have a right to that water.”

 
In November, the smaller cities of Uvalde and Del Rio indicated their opposition. In a report by the San-Antonio Express-News several groups, the cities expressed their concerns to the San Antonio Water System (SAWS).

This isn't the first salvo that environmentalists and community activists have fired at the V.V. Water Co.'s proposal. The groups sent a letter to SAWS officials and its board of trustees last month warning the proposal would impact the San Felipe and Pinto creeks, which run through Val Verde and Kinney counties, by reducing the amount of water flowing into them. Those waterways are critical habitat, the letter states, for the Devils River minnow, which the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife classifies as a threatened species. Additionally, the letter charges that the models used by the Texas Water Development Board to determine how much water is available have overestimated the supply. “This is illustrated by the fact that springs and creeks in Val Verde County have already stopped flowing from the recent drought,” the letter states.

John Littlejohn, owner of the Val Verde Water Company, told the Fronteras Desk in early November the groundwater being purchased does not flow into the San Filipe Springs. The Val Verde Water Company is in no way affiliated with Val Verde County or the City of Del Rio.
 
The Mayor of Del Rio has threatened legal action if the Val Verde Water Company proposal goes through.
 
The San Antonio Water System is looking at several plans but will not begin a decision making process until January.