A bid by San Antonio’s water utility to declare ownership of the sewage it treats and releases has sparked a regional tug-of-war — one that could become more common as Texas’ thirsty water users struggle to protect their supplies.
Every year, the San Antonio Water System treats close to 33 billion gallons of wastewater and discharges it into the San Antonio River. (Another 8 billion gallons are treated and used by golf courses and industrial customers.) Because Texas water law says all surface water is owned by the state, the city effectively cedes ownership of it once it is released into the river.
“What we’d like to do is to get authorization to retain ownership of that water, even after it’s put into the river,” said SAWS spokesman Greg Flores III. “We do own that asset. Our ratepayers own that asset.”
SAWS says that for now, it simply wants ownership of the remaining wastewater so that it can flow down to San Antonio Bay to protect the habitat for species like the endangered whooping crane, the focus of a high-profile federal lawsuit that could threaten the state’s water supplies and planning process.