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San Antonio Water System CEO On Water Restrictions, Projects, Pandemic Response

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The San Antonio Water System is having a busy summer. In the span of three months, SAWS completed their 142-mile Vista Ridge pipeline, approved a sewer main to boost West Side service and signaled Stage 1 water-use restrictions for the first time since 2018.

The utility also committed to helping residents financially during the COVID-19 crisis. SAWS' statementsaid water service will continue, even if bills are unpaid.

How long will this assistance continue? Will residents affected by COVID-19 economic fallout still be responsible for those bills post-pandemic?

In May, SAWS officials opened the Vista Ridge pipeline, which had been in the works since 2013. The controversial project was originally set for mid-April completion but complications resulted in delays, tens of millions in additional expenses and millions of gallons of lost water.

Environmentalists continue to call for more transparency and oversightof SAWS projects.

In July, the SAWS board approved a $167.7-million contract for a new West Side sewer. The pipeline is expected to be the costliest and most complex in San Antonio's history. How will the project affect West Side residents and businesses?  

Two days after that budget was approved, SAWS activated its four-part regional drought management plan for the first time in two years. Stage 1 begins when the 10-day rolling average of the Edwards Aquifer level drops below 660 feet.

Under these restrictions, watering with an irrigation, sprinkler or hose is only allowed once a week before 11 a.m. or after 7 p.m. on a designated watering day. The stage also restricts washing parking lots, driveways and other "impervious cover."

How could these changes affect day-to-day life for San Antonio residents? What's included in subsequent stages of the plan and at what point would they be implemented, if dry conditions continue?

Guest: Robert Puente, president and CEO of the San Antonio Water System

"The Source" is a live call-in program airing Mondays through Thursdays from 12-1 p.m. Leave a message before the program at (210) 615-8982. During the live show, call 833-877-8255, email thesource@tpr.org  or tweet @TPRSource.

*This interview was recorded on Wednesday, July 15.

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Kathleen Creedon can be reached at kathleen@tpr.org or on Twitter at @Kath_Creedon
Kim Johnson is the producer for Texas Public Radio’s live, call-in show The Source. She is a Trinity University alum with bachelor’s degrees in Communication and Spanish, and a Master of Arts Degree from the School of Journalism at the University of Texas at Austin.