Uvalde businessman Jared Capt on Tuesday presented a proposed water management plan to city council that could save the city $145,000 this year, but entails close management of the city water supply.
The Edwards Aquifer Authority allows water to be classified in one of two ways, municipal water, the public water supply including drinking water provided by city utilities, and water used for irrigation.
Mayor Don McLaughlin said he and assistant city manager Joe Cardenas had met with Capt, who suggested the city be more strategic with water allocation, as unused water earmarked for irrigation incurs no fee, while water classified for city municipal use incurs an aquifer management fee of $84 per acre-foot whether or not it is used.
Capt presented figures from 2009-2018 showing that, on a five-year average, the city has 3,272 acre-feet of unused municipal water per year. Though fees have already been incurred for 2019 through September, by re-classifying that water for irrigation use the city can save approximately $145,000 in permit fees this year, and up to $275,000 next year.
If the water is later required for municipal use, it may be reclassified with no penalty.
The city of Uvalde owns or has permits for 6,382 acre-feet of water, comprising three types including Edwards Aquifer Authority base water, which may only be used as irrigation, EAA unrestricted water, and water sourced from the Buda aquifer.
Capt discussed city participation in EAA forbearance programs, voluntary water conservation plans intended to help protect aquifer resources in time of drought.
Two programs are being considered, and both compensate permit holders who enroll water from either their base irrigation or unrestricted groundwater rights for the benefit of the Edwards Aquifer Habitat Conservation Plan.
Cardenas said the city has previously participated in similar EAA water conservation programs that required a one-year commitment, but stopped as of last year due to program changes and the required time commitment being lengthened.
The ASR program requires a nine-year commitment, and the VISPO, or Voluntary Irrigation Suspension Program Option, requires a five-year commitment.
The ASR program pays $100 per acre-foot annually, and water enrolled is still available for usage or leasing unless a drought trigger is activated. That would occur if the 10-year rolling average of the annual recharge to the aquifer is estimated by no later than June 1 of each year to be at or below 500,000 acre-feet. Forbearance, which means the city would not be able to use water enrolled in the program, is only required the year after a determination has been made. The last time the 10-year average fell below the 500,000-acre-feet level was from 1946-1959, during the most severe drought on record.
According to the EAA, on May 10, 2019, the estimated annual recharge for year 2018 was reported by the U.S. Geological Survey to be 1,100,000 acre-feet, resulting in a 10-year annual recharge average of 590,630 acre-feet.
The VISPO program pays $54 per acre-foot during the five-year term of the agreement and like the ASR program water is available for use unless a drought trigger is activated. That threshold is determined by measuring the Edwards Aquifer at the J-17 index well in Bexar County. If the water level is at or below 635 feet as of Oct. 1, forbearance is required. In that case, the EAA would pay an additional $160 per acre-foot of enrolled water for the forbearance year.
Councilman Rogelio M. Muñoz was concerned with having access to enough useable water for the city in case of severe drought, and the plans and water allocation to each are being considered at this time.
Capt believes city is missing out on water management funding
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