Wasting water is a sore point in drought-prone South Texas, and San Antonio Water System (SAWS) seeks to husband this precious resource the best it can. The company serves about 356,000 water and 399,000 wastewater customers, or about 1.3 million people, in the San Antonio metropolitan area (including most of the city of San Antonio, several suburban municipalities, and adjacent parts of Bexar County). The utility is owned by the City of San Antonio. Faced with a regional long term drought scenario, SAWS is pushing conservation measures. In 2010 it retrofit more than 13,900 toilets, and conducted about 1,520 customer water use audits. It saved about 2,570 acre feet in annual water savings that year.
The water and wastewater utility expects its population base to increase from 1 million in 2006 to 2.2 million by 2050, and its water demand to double during the same time period.
A growth in customers lifted SAWS' water delivery and supply business revenues in 2010, while higher-than-usual rainfall resulted in lower wastewater use. Overall, SAWS' revenues was up for the year. However, increases in depreciation expense and charges related to asset impairments dragged down its operating margins.
To meet maintenance and expansion needs, in 2011 the San Antonio City Council restructured SAWS' water and wastewater rates by about 6.5%. The upward adjustment added $20.3 million a year in revenues, beginning in 2011.
SAWS and a neighboring utility, the Lower Colorado River Authority, signed an agreement in 2002 to study the feasibility of drawing water from the lower Colorado River basin for use by San Antonio. The LCRA reported in 2009 that it had found that there was not a sufficient amount of extra water available to build a proposed reservoir. SAWS sued LCRA for $1.2 billion over the results of the study, but the suit was tossed out by a state district judge.
SAWS was formed in 1992 through a merger of three entities: the City Water Board, the City Wastewater Department, and the Alamo Water Conservation and Reuse District.
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