San Antonio Protects Edwards Aquifer


   San Antonio, the seventh largest city in the United States, covers approximately 515
   square miles of Bexar County in south central Texas. Throughout its colorful history, the
   city's culture and traditions are influenced by Native Americans, Old Mexico, Germans,
   the Wild West, African-Americans and the Deep South. Over one million people call San
   Antonio home, and nearly seven million tourists visit the city each year.

   The San Antonio Water System (SAWS) presently serves approximately 1.2 million
   customers, via 91 wells that draw from the Edwards Aquifer, 16 Trinity aquifer wells, and
   for the first time SAWS is currently receiving approximately 6 million gallons per day of
   surface water. These new non-Edwards water sources make up approximately 8.5% of
   the water supplied to our customers. Additionally, SAWS completed construction of an
   Aquifer Storage and Recover (ASR) project for the Edwards aquifer region, this
   technology is expected to reduce  summer peak demands on the aquifer by pumping the
   Edwards aquifer water stored in the ASR project rather than directly from the Edwards

   The Edwards Aquifer consists of extensively faulted and fractured carbonate limestone
   that lies within the Balcones fault zone. The size, storage capacity, flow characteristics,
   water producing capabilities, and efficient recharging ability of this geologic feature make
   it one of the most impressive aquifers in the nation. The small hydraulic gradients and
   the large discharge volume at the springs and many high yielding wells indicate the
   immense transmissivity of the Edwards Aquifer. In 1975,  it was the first aquifer in the
   U.S.  to receive a sole source designation by the Environmental Protection Agency.

   The Edwards Aquifer extends approximately 180 miles from the Brackettville area in the
   western region of San Antonio, to Kyle in the eastern region of the municipality. Urban
   development,  both residential  and commercial, is rapidly increasing in the aquifer's
   recharge zone. With this increased development comes an increased possibility of
   contamination from spills, leakage from hazardous materials, and urban runoff. Other
   potential contamination sources of the Edwards Aquifer include abandoned  or mineral
   exploration wells,  runoff from highways and railroads, underground or above ground
   chemical storage  tanks, municipal landfills, industrial and hazardous waste disposal, and
   agricultural chemicals such as fertilizers and pesticides.

   Priority Contamination Threat

   Priority contamination threats include commercial and residential spills, hazardous
   materials, and urban runoff,

   Local Involvement and Developing the Protection Plan

   Public education and outreach are the main avenues for local  involvement in SAWS's
   source water protection program.  These programs focus on water conservation,
Office of Water (4606M)                       816F10047                             January 2010

   stormwater runoff, water quality, reuse, aquifer studies, recycling and wellhead
   protection. Audiences include school groups, homeowner associations, community
   organizations, and government agencies. Specific programs include Adopt-A-Creek,
   Texas Watch Monitoring, and Storm Drain Stenciling. SAWS regularly conducts training
   workshops for the professional trades to  address local, state and federal regulations
   associated with construction and industrial activities. SAWS also provides technical
   assistance for San Antonio's rural residents who rely on private wells for their household
   water supply, and provides information on proper well  construction, proper well setting,
   backflow prevention, and plugging abandoned wells. SAWS's Groundwater Protection
   Division also helps well owners by answering inquiries on where water samples are
   accepted for testing, and suggesting basic wellhead protection practices.

   Management Measures

   SAWS's Wellhead Protection Program was initiated by the Texas  Natural Resource
   Conservation Commission. In addition to completing a study of the region's geology,
   ground water, and land use, SAWS has delineated a one-quarter  mile radius of each
   public supply water well, and inventoried potential sources of ground water degradation.
   Public education and outreach are also important components of SAWS's program, as
   described above.

   Additional strengths of the SAWS source water protection program are its Abandoned
   Well Program, Sensitive Land Acquisition Program, land use reviews and assessments,
   and various contaminant source inspection programs.  These programs and other
   planned initiatives are described below.

   SAWS Abandoned Well Program

   SAWS is very active in identifying and closing abandoned wells because they are direct
   conduits for contaminants to enter the Edwards Aquifer. SAWS defines abandoned wells
   as any well which exists in a deteriorated condition, has not been  used for  a minimum of
   six consecutive months and which is not connected to an active electrical or other power
   source. SAWS identifies abandoned wells through the inspection of platted or replatted
   properties, or through property inspections when SAWS receives  an application for
   water service. SAWS issues permits for approximately 70 well closures each year.

   When an abandoned well is located, the  plat is denied and the engineering firm and/or
   developer is notified. SAWS will release the plat if (1) the well is immediately plugged in
   accordance with SAWS Groundwater Protection Division's plugging procedures, or (2) a
   bond/cashiers check is provided in an amount equal to an accompanying bid to have the
   well plugged by a licensed water well driller or pump installer. The bond or cashier's
   check is held for a maximum of six months.

   If a well is located on an individual's property that has applied for water service, the
   customer may plug the well or apply for a variance. If the variance is granted the
   customer must install a backflow prevention device on their incoming service line. This
   device prevents the possibility of a cross connection between the  well water and SAWS
   water. The San Antonio Water System recently received an EPA 319 Grant
   (administered by the Texas Natural Resource  Conservation Commission) to fund the
   plugging of abandoned wells for well owners that cannot afford the cost of doing so.
Office of Water (4606M)                        816F10047                              January 2010

   Sensitive Land Acquisition Program

   In 1997, SAWS initiated this program to protect and preserve the quantity and quality of
   water entering into the aquifer recharge zone by acquiring lands that are predisposed to
   contamination due to their geologic sensitivity. Through conservation easements and fee
   simple acquisition (outright purchase) of these lands, detrimental land uses within the
   recharge zone are reduced. SAWS has developed standardized criteria for evaluating
   the suitability of properties to be acquired through this program. Criteria include:
   maximum thickness of Edwards limestone on property, presence of streams and/or
   rivers,  presence of faulting, presence of major features, availability, and affordability of
   the parcel. To date, SAWS has acquired and or established conservation easements on
   20,519.68 acres.

   Land Use Reviews and Assessments

   SAWS's Aquifer Protection and Evaluation section helps protect the aquifer recharge
   area through the review and assessment  of various land uses (zoning changes, site
   development plans, building permits, Water Pollution Abatement  Plans),  and reporting
   their findings to the appropriate authority (Zoning Commission, City Council, Planning
   Commission, Texas Commission on Environmental Quality).

   SA WS Inspection Programs

   \ndustrial Inspections: Industries in San Antonio are required to file for an TCEQ
   stormwater discharge permit dependent on the type of operations they conduct
   (classified by SIC). SAWS Industrial Compliance Specialists inspect those industries
   required to maintain Industrial Storm Water Discharge permits. Through this program,
   SAWS assist industry managers to achieve and maintain permit compliance, conduct
   routine and emergency site inspections, review pollution prevention plans, provide
   alternatives for current disposal methods  as necessary, and offer general stormwater

   Construction Inspections

   In this  program, SAWS  specialists review Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plans
   (SWP3) to ensure that projects are being  administered within the parameters set by
   federal law. Specialists  check sites for "good housekeeping" and  function as a liaison
   between the community and developers. The city code provisions covering Clearing and
   Grading requirements are intended to improve the conditions in the site-clearing phase
   of construction.

   Illicit Connection Monitoring Program

   Through this program, SAWS inspects  San Antonio's (and part of Bexar County's)
   Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) to identify unlawful connections. Illicit
   connections into the storm drain system are either terminated or redirected into the
   sanitary sewer system as soon as they are identified so that the discharge may be
   treated. Other discharges include leaking  sanitary lines crossing the storm drain system
   and/or leaking water mains.
Office of Water (4606M)                       816F10047                              January 2010

   Instream Monitoring

   Through this program, SAWS monitors the storm water runoff quality of San Antonio's
   streams and waterways with a system of monitoring stations located in strategic
   locations. The program involves quarterly analysis of Biochemical Oxygen Demand
   (BOD), Chemical Oxygen Demand (COD), total  and dissolved phosphorous, copper,
   Total Suspended Solids (TSS), dissolved  solids, Total nitrogen total ammonia plus
   organic nitrogen lead, cadmium and zinc for all sample sites. The parameters are used
   in conjunction with a statistical model to calculate pollutant loading based upon land use,
   watershed delineation and locally-adjusted pollutant load equations to include the
   complete storm-water dataset  information.

   Sampling Dry and Wet Weather Field Screen Points

   SAWS evaluates approximately 500 field points for biological, physical, and chemical
   characteristics throughout the year. These sample locations use field kits to identify
   discharges as allowable or not. Further investigation is done in conjunction with the Illicit
   connection program to identify and eliminate discharges if needed.

   Contingency Planning

   SAWS's contingency  plan focuses on both short term and long plans in the event of
   emergency situations evolving from industrial incidents, train derailments, motor vehicle
   accidents, aircraft crashes and the illegal dumping of hazardous materials. The
   contingency plan is made available to water system employees and community officials,
   and is operated under the jurisdiction of the Fire Department's Hazardous Material
   Response Team. SAWS on-call staff respond to spills for testing, expert consultation on
   the drainage system,  and protection of the environment, as well as cleanup options. In
   addition, SAWS has placed signs within the source water protection area that advertise
   emergency phone numbers to  call in the event of a contamination emergency. Another
   component of SAWS's contingency plan is the implementation of annual Water
   Emergency Training (WET) exercises. During these exercises, participants are
   presented a hypothetical emergency scenario and must organize a task force and
   address the problem.

   SAWS South Bexar  County Well Mitigation Program

   The South Bexar County Well  Mitigation Program was approved by the SAWS Board of
   Trustees in order to address potential water level declines in privately-owned water wells
   in the vicinity of the SAWS Twin Oaks Aquifer Storage and Recovery (ASR) Plant. The
   ASR Plant allows for water pumped from the Edwards Aquifer to be placed into long-
   term subsurface storage in the Carrizo Aquifer until it is needed to satisfy supply
   demands during extended dry  periods. Although the primary focus of the Mitigation
   Program is to address water level fluctuations related to operation of the ASR, a side
   benefit has been the elimination of potential sources of contamination to the Carrizo
   Aquifer.  During the mitigation  process, well that are do not meet current regulatory
   standards are brought into compliance by such actions as installing a concrete slab at
   the wellhead, elevating the casing above ground surface, and installing a functioning
   sanitary on the wellhead.  These extra measures not only protect the private well
Office of Water (4606M)                        816F10047                               January 2010

   owners, but also the SAWS customers that benefit from the operation of the Twin Oaks
   ASR Plant.

   Measuring Program  Effectiveness

   SAWS's success in source water protection can be measured by the fact that the
   organization is continuing to improve its numerous programs and create new ones that
   will ensure high-quality water for San Antonio. In 1999, SAWS's source water protection
   program received the Environmental Excellence Award from the Environmental
   Protection Agency (Region 6). In 2002 SAWS Pretreatment program received the
   National Second Place Clean Water Act Award from EPA. In 2003 SAWS Municipal
   Storm Water Program received the National Second Place Clean Water Act Award from
   EPA and in 2005 SAWS received a  National Environmental Achievement Award from
   the I EGA for its Storm Water Management Program.


   SAWS is currently expanding the scope of its source water protection program to include
   projects such as:

         Incorporating and reviewing the State assessment that was completed in 2005;
         Develop hydrologic maps for the Edward aquifer recharge zone in Bexar County,
         Develop source water protection projects for the Carrizo and Trinity aquifers;
         Improve the contingency plan that will utilize new technology; and
         Pursue the passage of city ordinances to further the protection of  recharge zones
          for San Antonio's water supplies.

   For further information, contact:
   Jim O'Connor
   Source Water Protection Specialist
   San Antonio Water System
Office of Water (4606M)                       816F10047                              January 2010