Miles and Miles of Pipes Underground Provide Waterful Solutions to the SA Community

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Out of sight, out of mind.

It can be easy to forget there’s water and wastewater infrastructure that lies beneath the surface – but there’s much more than meets the eye.

While the city works, lives, and plays above ground, underneath San Antonio, there’s a vast network of pipes, water wells, pumps, and storage tanks that are managed, inspected, and cleaned 24/7 by San Antonio Water System. This intricate highway of underground pipes has a multi-tasking purpose of delivering quality drinking water to homes and businesses, recycled water to commercial businesses, and providing sewer services, which is also discreetly disposed of in an environmentally responsible way.

To ensure San Antonio’s pipes work to provide sewer services, clean drinking water, and recycled water to commercial businesses, San Antonio Water System manages, inspects, and cleans more than 12,000 miles of underground water and sewer pipes, which is equivalent to the distance from South Texas to Australia.

Continually investing in the city’s infrastructure keeps SAWS services flowing.

Earlier this year, SAWS proactively undertook a comprehensive Capital Improvement Plan (CIP)  to meet the city’s long-term needs that includes investing $2 billion over the next five years for the repair and preventative maintenance of the city’s aging water and sewer infrastructure.

The newest CIP project to be completed was a 45-mile pipeline – dubbed the “integration pipeline” – that adds water management flexibility to SAWS’ massive underground water storage in southern Bexar County to simultaneously produce, store, and recover water. This allows the water utility to direct its diverse water supplies where they are needed most in the system, ensuring dependability.

“Investing customer dollars in water infrastructure not only improves service to SAWS ratepayers but also protects the environment and our community,” said Gavino Ramos, vice president of communications and external affairs. “SAWS is committed to working hard to ensure a reliable and resilient water system for the future.”

In addition to the current water and sewer infrastructure, SAWS is proactively in working with critical city industries in an effort to meet their growing needs.  Last year, in an agreement with Joint Base San Antonio, SAWS provided water and new infrastructure to our military bases to further shield them from potential base closures. In all, SAWS provides a combined 20,450 feet of pipeline to local military installations.

Addressing maintenance and upgrading of infrastructure is not just a San Antonio issue but a national one. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has identified national infrastructure investment needs for drinking water ($384 billion) and wastewater improvements ($271 billion) that total $655 billion to keep our country’s water and sewer infrastructure updated.

Maintaining and planning for reliable water and sewer infrastructure helps make San Antonio Waterful. Learn more at

One thought on “Miles and Miles of Pipes Underground Provide Waterful Solutions to the SA Community

  1. Is this a re-run? Wasn’t it already posted on Oct 10?

    But since it’s here, again, let’s look:

    The distance from San Antonio to Perth, Australia – on the far side of the continent – is only 10,408 miles, not 12,000. Maybe SAWS meant kilometers? Is it impossible for SAWS to check even basic facts when they’re trying to make themselves look good? Does no one read or fact check these “sponsored” articles at Rivard?

    SAWS didn’t “undertake” a CIP “earlier this year” as written above, the CIP has been around for years. It’s not new.

    The 2018 CIP was the first 5-year plan to exceed $2 billion. This is primarily due to increases in Wastewater expenditure due to the $400 million cost growth in Consent Decree expenses that inflate the cost up from SAWS commonly claimed “$1.1 billion” to $1.5 billion. That’s a 40% increase that SAWS regularly fails to mention and usually misrepresents, like CFO Doug Evanson did recently when including old data in his slides.

    The specific project touted in this infomercial, the 45-mile integration pipeline, is most likely a project from the 2017 CIP and may more properly be called the “Vista Ridge integration” pipeline as identified in the 2015-2017 budgets. In 2017, Vista Ridge consumed over 30% of the overall CIP budget.

    What is most interesting to me is that SAWS reduced spending in the 2019 CIP by 10%, or over $40 million. It CUT spending on sewer and water delivery by over $46 million; but it raised water resource spending by $5 m.

    The 2020 CIP is even more dramatic – it again CUT spending on sewer but it raised Vista Ridge spending by a whopping $113 million, or 366% over the “proactive $2 billion” 2018 CIP mentioned above.

    Gavino Ramos writes, vaguely, about “investing in infrastructure.” What he means is talking about sewer and water delivery, but really spending on Vista Ridge.

    How many sewer overflows have been caused in recent months due to leaky sewer pipes? So why is SAWS cutting investment there, but putting that money to Vista Ridge, instead, kicking real infrastructure repairs out to 2022 and beyond? Money talks, and walks.

    SAWS misleads the public regularly. Sometimes it does it with stupid, silly things like the distance to Australia. Sometimes it does it with hundreds of millions of dollars. Basically, if there’s a number, figure, data reference or anything from SAWS – you really need to double-check it against a reputable source.

    E-mail or call your council member and ask him or her to question the mayor, and SAWS board member, about the 2019 SAWS budget and reductions to real infrastructure in the CIP and the unplanned cost growth in Vista Ridge. The mayor is supposed to vote on this new plan in November – doesn’t he owe a public explanation to the Council about how he’ll vote, and why?

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