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The Link Between Long-Term Water Needs And San Antonio's Economic Future

Flickr user jwhippy
Lingering drought conditions have city leaders considering long-term water needs. Medina Lake on Jan. 31, 2013, a victim of continued drought conditions.

San Antonio Water System officials are in talks to find a supply of water in addition to the Edwards Aquifer to meet growth demands over the next few decades.

The San Antonio Chamber of Commerce has joined the discussion with a new study, the Impact of Potential Water Shortages on San Antonio’s Economy, which illustrates the link between long-term water needs and San Antonio’s economy.

The study was prepared by TXP, Inc., an economic analysis and public policy consulting firm in Austin. It was commissioned by the San Antonio Chamber to pinpoint the economic difficulties the city might face if the area does not secure more water resources for the future.

The illustrations are sobering. TXP President Jon Hockenyos said past studies have shown that short-term water shortages cause consumers to conserve and adjust, but long-term water shortages have an increased impact, especially on job loss.

“So the bottom line -- as measured in dollars -- if you have an 11 percent shortage of water for a certain period of time, you’d lose about 6,700 jobs here in the San Antonio economy," Hockenyos said. "If you had a 24 percent shortage of water, the level of job loss jumps up to about 34,000. And if you get up to above 43 percent shortage of water, then all of a sudden you see the real spike in the level of lost jobs, it’s 135,000 according to our estimates.”

Similarly, a water shortage would impact sales of hotel rooms and reduce agricultural output.

Chamber Board Chairman David McGee said Texas cities are competing for water, and the most efficient solution would be a crisscross of pipes across the state, moving water first from an area near Bastrop.

“The chamber is supportive of SAWS recommendation to keep the doors open. That’s including the expansion of our desalination of brackish water plant and also pursuing the agreement on fresh water that’s available through the Vista Ridge proposal," McGee said.

McGee said San Antonio consumers have done a good job of conserving water, but said we cannot conserve enough water to make up for the demand of growth over the next decades.

The study concludes that additional water supply beyond the aquifer is necessary, and officials say if water resources are adequate , San Antonio in the future would actually have a competitive advantage over other cities.