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Case studies

San Antonio Water System

Over the last few decades, San Antonio’s water supply has become increasing limited due to over-pumping of groundwater. To supply the city with clean water, the San Antonio Water System (SAWS) created a program using financial incentives, public education, and outreach initiatives to help the area’s biggest guzzlers – its commercial, industrial, and institutional customers – use water more efficiently. These measures have resulted in a water savings of 3.2 million acre feet, reflecting an almost 50% reduction in water use over the last 20 years – notwithstanding robust population growth.

Project at a Glance

Utility Overview

  • Utility: San Antonio Water System (SAWS)
  • Location: San Antonio, Texas
  • Population served: 1.86 million
  • Service area: 967 square miles

Challenges

  • Rapidly growing population and economy
  • Prolonged drought
  • Decreased water source permits
  • Need for Endangered Species Act compliance

Solution

  • A “conservation first” approach that treats conservation as a source of water supply. This includes three primary strategies:
    1. education and outreach,
    2. financial incentives, and
    3. reasonable regulation

Costs and Funding Sources

  • Total project budget: $5.4 million
  • Incentive and education programs: $3.5 million
  • Conservation staff of 22 full-time people, 5 part-time enforcement officers, 4 seasonal PT staff, and periodic seasonal temporary staff: $1.5 million
  • Program management, research, and web development projects: $0.4 million
  • Funding source: Capital Improvement Budget

Benefits

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Reduces water consumption by 50%
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Maintains a cost-effective water supply
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Ensures affordable rates for all income levels
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Engages the community
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Creates drought resilience
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Increases wildlife habitat for monarch butterflies and other pollinators through native plants
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Protects endangered species
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Greens urban spaces
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Saves money for local businesses
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