Monday, May 16, 2011

Water: Then and Now, Now and Later

As we, the citizens of Cibolo look to the future – to growth in a once sleepy little town – the questions quickly become about water… do we have enough of it?  How do we get more of it?  Once we get it - how do we get it to Cibolo? And, possibly the most important: how much will it cost?  Up to this point, Cibolo did a good job managing unprecedented residential growth and securing water resources – but as the city continues to grow, commercial development becomes increasingly important in diversifying the tax base in order to keep residential taxes low – thus managing current water usage and securing water resources for the future is critical.  Clearly, a strong water management plan and acquired resources will make Cibolo desirable for economic development and provide flexibility in brokering deals with new businesses.

In recent years this awareness filtered to Cibolo citizens/businesses in the form of year-round water restrictions and tiered water rates: only water during certain times of the day and the more water you use, the more you pay per gallon over certain consumptions – in an effort to incent conservation.  Though some may call this a conservation program – it is water awareness and conditioning through a penalty based system… a necessary and unpopular piece of conservation – but a comprehensive conservation program this is not.  Cibolo needs to adopt a conservation mindset with a genuine culture shift of the citizens through education about water use, plants, irrigation, support for high water use businesses, water-saving appliances/fixtures etc….  So where should we start?  As Fraulein Maria says:  “at the very beginning”– with our children – through water education in the schools.  This isn’t just the rain cycle – though it is important – it is also about where WE LIVE… a semi-arid climate with amazing natural resources.  It is about treatment plants, recycled water, and infrastructure.  It is also about equipping the citizens with the right tools – low flow toilet programs, aerators, showerheads, water audits.

Now, I won’t bore you with all the operational details – EDUs, Land Use Assessment Plans, etc… but they are important in conservation too…  In a conservation-minded community, water needs are less – resulting in a reduced need for treatment plans, water resources, etc… as the community grows.  This ‘reversed business model’ may seem backward – right?  Water companies need to sell water to generate the revenue necessary to maintain the system – right?  But think of it this way:  less water used prolongs the value of the system’s capacity and to some extent the useful life of the assets.
The best example I can think of is a car… A ten year old car with 40K miles is still a ten year old car… it’s value has decreased and maintenance increased over the years, but it is in better working condition and costs associated with the car are considerably less than a ten year old car with 140K miles.  You may generate less revenue with decreased water use, but you need less revenue to maintain the system.   A treatment plant and infrastructure is the ‘car’; in this case – gas is the water/wastewater.  Ultimately, growth will require increases in infrastructure and treatment… it is inevitable – but it can be significantly delayed if we work together in being good stewards of our resources and our tax dollars.

So where do we begin?  Fortunately, we don’t have to reinvent the wheel here… We are just north of arguably the best conservation program in the nation – San Antonio Water System.  Cibolo and other cities already opened the door in building regional partnerships by supporting the development of a local government water corporation.   This is a great step and we need to continue working together in addressing water supply issues.  Water is not just about me, or just about Cibolo… it’s the life sustaining resource for everyone.

As I see it, securing and expertly managing water is the cornerstone for the future of the Cibolo…
As a citizen I will continue to work tirelessly to maintain visibility of this issue - building and strengthening relationships in support of a culture of water management and stewardship within the community of Cibolo.

8 comments:

  1. Conservation is part of the solution...so is securing a solid and secure source of water...and then ensuring that the infrastructure exists to deliver that water. When our house was built the builder built the water mains to our house to the spec of the city and the SUD. Then the fire hydrants were all painted black (meaning no reliable water source). The SUD wanted to charge us more money to increase the size of the mains to our subdivision (when they specified the size built to the builder).

    I'm not an expert on water issues, but I do recognize that the city needs to change its approach to how it is providing water to the residents. The problem is that with rapid growth comes rapid expansion of required infrastructure and that costs money. The best way to pay for that new infrastructure is to have the builders build it out and then deed it to the SUD or the city...yes that means that I as the homeowner am really paying for it...but I am paying for it as a part of my home...not as an additional tax that is paying off a bond at a higher interest rate (not to mention that it is much more expensive to increase infrastructure later then it is to build it out right the first time).

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  2. I have no problem with water restrictions against waste; such as not running sprinklers in the the afternoon during the hottest time of the day or running sprinklers so long that water is flowing into the street. My problem is that our city made the decision to get off the Edwards Aquifer in 1998, because the city did not want to play by the EAA rules anymore. Because the water from CRWA cost more than EAA, city council approved a $4.00 water acquisition fee on all monthly utility bills. We are still paying that fee today, but since then, Cibolo has adopted rules that are very similar to EAA. What gives? If we must play by EAA rules, then let's go back to cheaper EAA water and get rid of the water acquisition fee.

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  3. Anonymous 3:15AM;

    You have got to be kidding; Cibolo would never be able to grow as we could never get enough water rights to meet our needs.

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  4. OK. If you think every home and business paying $48 a year in water acquisition fees is not enough money to lease, or purchase, EAA rights, then why did Cibolo adopt watering rules and restrictions similar to the EAA? Currently, we get our water from CRWA which treats water drawn from the Guadalupe River with permits from GBRA. Cibolo only needs to adopt GBRA and CRWA rules, but went beyond what these two entities required. So, why restrict Cibolo residents more than necessary?

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  5. I agree with Anonymous June 18 3:15 AM June 19 1:45 AM. I thought getting off the Edwards Aquifer and no longer having to set sprinklers to run only on the approved day of my house address was well worth the additional $4 water acquisition fee per month. Either the current mayor and council are ignorant of your facts or they don't care about imposing unnecessary restrictions on their constituents.

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  6. Looks like the resolution passed unanimously by city council declaring our independence from the Edwards Aquifer Authority rules got lost in City Hall and forgotten. What's next? A tax rate as high as San Antonio?

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  7. If city council issues the remaining bonds voters approved in the 2008 bond election, Cibolo's tax rate will surpass Schertz and Seguin. Cibolo would become the highest taxed city in Guadalupe County. WOO-HOO! Let the cheering begin ... We're #1, We're #1, We're #1.

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  8. We're #1, We're #1, We're #1, We're #1,!!!

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