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Breaking News! Vista Ridge and SAWS Face Investigation

SAWS Act PAC PO Box 33402 • San Antonio, TX 78265 210.807.7273 •

For Immediate Release                                                 July 20, 2020

Contact: Media Secretary, Reinette King • 210.241.2683 Linda Curtis, League of Independent Voters • 512.657.2089

Vista Ridge and SAWS Face Investigation

San Antonio, 8:00 am: Late Friday afternoon, July 17, the Post Oak Savannah Groundwater Conservation District (Milam and Burleson counties), which permitted the Vista Ridge water project in Burleson County, issued three stinging letters calling for an investigation, potential fine and even a permit reduction for the project, following a specially called board meeting on July 16th.

Letters were sent to the San Antonio Water System (SAWS), Blue Water Vista Ridge LLC, and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), concerning Post Oak’s allegations of “waste” by SAWS of water purchased from Vista Ridge from April 15th through about June 12th.

According to the Post Oak letter to SAWS, the 10 million gallons per day Post Oak believes SAWS wasted “is equivalent to the amount of water needed to supply a community in our district of approximately 5,000 people for an entire year.”

Post Oak told Vista Ridge it will consider its options at the conclusion of its investigation, including possible permit reduction and/or a fine of up to $580,000 on the permit holder for violations of Chapter 36 of the Texas Water Code.

Post Oak also called upon TCEQ to investigate the waste issue from the point of view of SAWS’ responsibilities under the Water Code, since it is not clear to Post Oak if it has any authority over SAWS in Post Oak’s role as a regulator of groundwater.

Most important to San Antonio ratepayers is the reminder by the Post Oak Board Chairman, Sidney Youngblood, that

“I’m sure it is not lost on the [SAWS] Board of Trustees; as an arm of the municipal corporation of City of San Antonio, expenditures of public funds are not to be done in a wasteful manner.”

Alice Canestaro-Garcia of the SAWS Act PAC, said,

“Post Oak’s test of their regulatory authority and request for TCEQ to investigate SAWS, couldn’t be more timely. Full bore pumping for Vista Ridge will begin in August, threatening not only ratepayers’ pocketbooks as the economic crisis continues to unfold in our city, but also private wells owned by largely rural and elderly people of modest means in Burleson, Milam, Lee and Bastrop counties.”

George Alejos of LULAC Concilio Zapatista 4383, said,

“What I appreciate the most about Post Oak’s actions is how they express concern for ratepayers some 140 miles to the south. We here in San Antonio are paying for the most expensive water in Texas – and probably the entire U.S. – but our own City Council and SAWS Trustees are giving us the Marie Antoinette treatment – let us ‘eat cake’ – when thousands are increasing the lines at the food bank.”

Terry Burns, MD, chair of the Alamo Sierra Club, said,

“At the July 7th SAWS Board meeting not one Trustee even asked SAWS to tell them how much water was dumped at Mud Creek. By my calculation, using the lowball SAWS estimate for Vista Ridge water costs, that’s about $3 million in ratepayer money – dumped down the drain with 590 million gallons of good water, as Post Oak pointed out. That might be a hundred jobs in our economy. Why is it okay for SAWS to waste water and not citizens now in drought restrictions? Why is it okay for SAWS to waste millions of dollars of ratepayer money? I am glad Post Oak is acting, because as usual we hear nothing from our Mayor and City Council.”

The SAWS Act PAC has just begun gathering 20,000 San Antonio voters’ signatures to place the SAWS Accountability Act on the May 2021 ballot through an all-volunteer drive. According to the group, if it makes it to the ballot and if it passes, the SAWS Accountability Act will:

  1. Ratchet back outrageous general manager pay — $600K per year — nearly 3 times any other public water CEO in the US.

  2. Enforce existing term limits on SAWS leadership. Vista Ridge cheerleader, Berto Guerra, was allowed to stay 2 years over his term limit.

  3. Return SAWS to its local community mission and stop SAWS lobbying efforts to become water brokers of central Texas.

  4. Secure an audit of Vista Ridge, AND audits of any $1 billion or more projects BEFORE contracts are signed.

Reinette King, the local coordinator for the petition drive and media spokesperson said,

“The City Council can run now, but they cannot hide next May, so long as we gather the 20,000 signatures we need. All those running for Mayor and Council will be forced to answer this question for voters: what did you do when the poor and working folks of San Antonio asked you to protect them from a public utility that forgot the public?”


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