Joe Krier: Draft Water Report Should Not Be Taken Seriously

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Councilman Joe Krier and his wife. Phott by Scott Ball.

Councilman Joe Krier and his wife, Cyndi Taylor Krier. Phott by Scott Ball.

I am proud of my vote a year ago for the Vista Ridge water-supply project.

The pipeline, which will begin delivering as much as 50,000 acre feet of water to San Antonio in 2020, is one of the keys to ensuring we’ll have the water necessary to sustain our city’s inevitable growth.

That growth will be considerable. Our population is expected to increase by more than one million people in the next 25 years.

To secure our water future, we need Vista Ridge – as well as desalination, the Aquifer Storage and Recovery facility, a muscular conservation program, and every other initiative San Antonio Water System (SAWS) has successfully pursued in recent years.

While it’s true that a group of community and environmental activists oppose the project, public opinion isn’t on their side. I firmly believe most San Antonians support locking in a reliable, long-term water supply at an affordable price – and that they know we’ll have to pay for it.

SAWS negotiated the pipeline agreement in public following a drawn-out process weighing the pros and cons of competing proposals. At City Hall, every City Council member voted for Vista Ridge. Projects that divide the community don’t receive Council’s unanimous support.

Opponents of the project don’t have the public’s backing, but they haven’t given up. They now see the water-security report that’s been in the news lately as their Hail Mary pass to thwart Vista Ridge. However, that report is what’s controversial, not the project.

The study suffers from major errors, omissions and a poor understanding of the engineering involved in building the pipeline and of the agreement between SAWS and the Vista Ridge Consortium. The Texas A&M Institute of Renewable Natural Resources, the author, is working hard to remedy the report’s many weaknesses.

So when critics of Vista Ridge accused city officials last week of “suppressing” the report, I wonder how many other studies they have demanded to be released in raw draft form, riddled with errors.

Are rough drafts of studies now good enough to inform discussions of major policy initiatives or projects? If so, why stop there? Let’s release the authors’ notes and email exchanges with colleagues, the raw material from which they produced the rough draft.

Some Vista Ridge opponents are willing to overlook the absurdity of treating a rough draft as a finished product because they see a tactical advantage in doing so – wrongly, I believe.

The draft report calls the project risky without proving the case, at least not in a manner that would withstand peer review.

In fact, under the agreement, the financial risk is carried by the Vista Ridge Consortium, not SAWS or the City of San Antonio. If Abengoa, the consortium’s lead partner, fails to line up financing to build the pipeline, it doesn’t get built. The downside for us is that we would have to start over looking for another major, long-term supply of non-Edwards Aquifer water.

This is a sound plan, the result of thorough, transparent, and lengthy consideration and debate.

The last thing we need is opinion dressed up as clear-eyed analysis.

Many of those who want to stop the pipeline are looking to sow confusion. They want to use this rough draft to create the impression that SAWS is set to squander ratepayers’ hard-earned money on a boondoggle.

Expect to hear that kind of overheated language a lot over the next month.

And then please understand that it will be based on opinion, not facts – at least until the report is corrected and complete.

City Councilmember Joe Krier represents District 9.

 

*Top image: Councilman Joe Krier and his wife, former Bexar County Judge Cyndi Taylor Krier.  Phott by Scott Ball. 

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