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Major Source Of Aquifer Shelter Funding Waits On City Decision

Courtesy photo
The shaded regions indicate which areas of the recharge zone have been purchased by the City of San Antonio

  On Thursday, the San Antonio City Council will decide whether to ask voters to renew a sales tax for aquifer protection and park maintenance. This one-eighth of a cent sales tax could potentially have a host of uses.  

At the moment, the City of San Antonio uses most of the money collected from the sales tax to buy property in the Edwards Aquifer Recharge zone, which replenishes the area’s water supply. The tax was first approved in 2000, and 133,000 acres have been purchased so far through this money. 

Councilman Ron Nirenberg says this, in turn, prevents development that could otherwise harm the aquifer. “We therefore protect contaminants from getting into the ground, and guarantee that that land takes in the recharge it would normally take in as a natural area.”

The money is also used to expand the city’s hike and bike trails, known as the Howard Peak Greenway System. Both programs have had voters approve them thrice.

Annalisa Peace, executive director of the Greater Edwards Aquifer Alliance, says the fund has also been used to purchase land around the Bracken Bat Cave. “There, we were not just protecting the aquifer, we were protecting the largest colony of mammals in the world,” says Peace.

As things stand, the one-eighth of a cent sales tax will go towards collecting a maximum of $135 million over a five-year-period. One proposal would see that maximum threshold increase to $180 million. 

Councilman Joe Krier wants to use the sales tax to raise even more money: $200 million, so that extra funding can come in handy for maintaining the city’s parks. “We have tons of parks in the city that are not part of the linear park system. Those are the ones that tend to be under-maintained and under-completed,” Krier points out.

Thinking along similar lines, Pat DiGiovanni, President and CEO of Centro San Antonio, says he would like to see some of the money pay for other environmental improvements. “We believe HemisFair fits the definition of the intent of this reauthorization as well, because it has a very thoughtful, low impact development design to it, which means it focuses on capturing and reusing water.”

If the council votes to send the propositions to voters, they’ll be decided on May 9.