AUSTIN – LCRA, accused earlier in May of breaching its agreement with the San Antonio Water System to study a proposed water-sharing project, called Thursday for mediation of the dispute and denied that it had breached the agreement. LCRA also challenged SAWS to identify exactly what obligations SAWS thinks LCRA has left unfulfilled.
LCRA and SAWS signed an agreement in 2002 to study the feasibility of a water-sharing project to determine if such a project could provide for water needs in both basins while meeting requirements set by the Texas Legislature. Recently, preliminary study findings indicated that the project – given updated growth projections – would not meet all of the legislative requirements, meaning no water would be available for San Antonio. On May 5, 2009, the SAWS Board of Trustees claimed that LCRA’s use of updated water need projections in the ongoing project studies breached the agreement.
In a letter sent May 28 to SAWS in response to its threat of a legal challenge, LCRA said that “in studying the facts and reporting the results, LCRA has certainly not breached the agreement.” It also noted that the preliminary study results were “understandably very disappointing to the many people – at LCRA as well as SAWS – who hoped the project would meet the feasibility standards in the agreement and LCRA Act and make more water available for all.”
LCRA’s letter also challenged SAWS to identify any provision of the agreement or relevant state law that would require LCRA to sell water to SAWS even though properly conducted feasibility studies show that no water can be made available to SAWS under the terms of the agreement and project requirements defined by state law.
LCRA said that it was complying with all terms of the agreement and with legislation that requires LCRA to determine whether any sale of water to SAWS “will protect and benefit the lower Colorado River watershed and the authority’s water service area, including municipal, industrial, agricultural, recreational, and environmental interests.”
The LCRA Board decided in December 2008 that the study should take into consideration accelerated growth of municipal and industrial demand, as well as other conditions. Updated projections for water needs in the lower Colorado River basin are more than previously projected.
SAWS wants LCRA to use outdated data. Given the requirement to protect the Colorado River basin’s interests, LCRA said in the May 28, 2009, letter, it would be “unscientific and imprudent, at best,” to use outdated data that do not reflect accelerated population growth and water needs.
LCRA also continued to reaffirm its desire to work with SAWS on regional water planning for mutual benefit. LCRA denied it took unilateral action to kill the project after the preliminary study results were known. “To the contrary, at SAWS’ request LCRA has taken steps to reduce ongoing study expense while LCRA and SAWS work together to evaluate the latest feasibility studies and their implications, and to explore options for future planning for mutual benefit. Far from ignoring SAWS, LCRA has met with SAWS at all levels, including Board chair, chief executive officer, and staff, to discuss the results of the latest feasibility studies. LCRA has offered other meetings and discussions for this purpose,” the letter said.
The LCRA-SAWS agreement allows mediation of any disagreements if informal negotiations are not successful.