Aransas County Navigation District (ACND) commissioners, at their regular meeting Monday, Sept. 20, approved sending a letter in support of the San Antonio Water System (SAWS) Bed and Banks permit application to release 50,000 acre feet per year of groundwater-based recycled water, generated and paid for by San Antonio, into the San Antonio River. That release, less natural loss, would find its way to San Antonio Bay.

“My understanding is they want to ensure 50,000 acre feet of water comes into San Antonio Bay,” said Commissioner Tommy Moore.

ACND consultant Charlie Belaire (Belaire Environmental, Inc.) said, “The more freshwater we can get, the better. It helps the blue crabs.”

Blue crabs are whooping cranes’ primary food source.

Fifty-thousand acre feet of water is equal to 50,000 acres, one foot deep, according to Moore, which is more than 16 billion gallons of water.

A fact sheet provided by SAWS said, “The water, less natural losses, when used as requested in the permit, will flow through a diversion point into San Antonio Bay, helping to ensure freshwater inflows that maintain coastal ecosystems and support businesses that are dependent on a healthy bay.

“SAWS is not required by TCEQ to release recycled water for the benefit of downstream ecosystems and economies, but doing so makes the most sense for the environment and economy at San Antonio Bay.

“We believe this Bed and Banks permit authorization will benefit the communities along the San Antonio River, the health of (San Antonio Bay), and the economies that rely on healthy ecosystems.”

Some commissioners questioned the purity of the water to be released into the San Antonio River.

“By the time it gets there (San Antonio Bay) it’s fine,” said Belaire. He also noted the Guadalupe River (into which the San Antonio River flows, prior to reaching the bay) has a functioning delta, and there are thousands of acres of wetlands in the area that filter the river’s water.

Moore said all water flowing into San Antonio Bay is allocated, except during drought conditions.

“This tells me it ensures 50,000 acre feet will get to San Antonio Bay (even during times of drought),” he said.

The vote to approve a letter of support was unanimous. ACND Chairman Malcolm Dieckow was not in attendance.

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