I am Allie Perez, I’m inspired by our community’s efforts toward modern sustainability techniques, and I am SA2020! Currently, I operate a local plumbing and air conditioning company in San Antonio. Our customers are constantly concerned about water management due to San Antonio’s dry climate and searching for energy efficient ways to operate their homes.
As a plumber in training, water has become my passion. I attended a seminar through the Smart Women Series hosted by the San Antonio Women’s Chamber of Commerce. The guest speaker, a top representative from SAWS, spoke to the group about the importance of sustainability and how SAWS takes action to ensure resources for the future. She broke up her presentation into two categories: water and wastewater. As a plumber, this makes a great deal of sense to me (supply line/drain line; water line/sewer line). Her presentation was jam-packed with information that needs to be shared, so here’s my attempt. I will summarize her points as I understood them:
- SAWS has built a reservoir underground! Water from the Carrizo Springs Aquifer, kept in a bubble underground, has provided SAWS customers with water during peak drought times.
- SAWS has dug down deep into the earth to the brackish water of Wilcox Aquifer. This water is brought up to the surface and treated through a reverse osmosis process in a desalinization plant. SAWS will distribute desalinated water by 2016.
- SAWS is searching for additional water sources. It is currently in talks with other aquifers and companies that may sell their water to SAWS. Due to the expense and riskiness in this permanent venture, SAWS wants to be certain the benefits will outweigh the cost.
- The EPA has warned San Antonio that it needs to make major improvements to the sewer system or face a $1 billion fine! SAWS has already started visually inspecting more than 6,000 miles of sewer pipeline for breaks or leaks in an effort to improve sewage maintenance in San Antonio. Pipes must be cleaned, repaired or replaced completely.
- The main cause of pipeline breaks comes from what we put down our drains. Grease, “flushable” wipes and debris cause lines to back up and inevitably break. SAWS has also started an aggressive campaign to alert its customers to the dangers and ramifications of putting grease down their drains.
CPS Energy has also invested in planning a diversified portfolio of energy resources. Their portfolio includes: natural gas, solar power, wind power and nuclear power. By relying on various types of energy they are constantly ensured a minimum amount of power can be distributed at any given time. This also allows CPS excess energy that they then “sell” on the electricity market.
This presentation also pointed out to me many ways that those of us who aren’t large utility companies can also contribute to SA2020 goals to lower water usage rates and energy usage rates. We can all do better about preventing pipeline breaks, and we can also contribute to the effort by using a bit less water and a bit less energy. CPS Energy’s impressive portfolio can do wonders for changing the energy landscape in San Antonio, but so can the efforts of motivated citizens. In 2011, citizens in San Antonio used an average of 147 gallons of water per person per day. That’s actually an increase in water use from 2010. The cool thing is, to reach the SA2020 goal, each person simply has to use 1.5 gallons less of water each day. That’s about a 1% decrease per person. Not a big change for a household, but a huge change for the city. And with the water crisis currently unfolding in Texas and the upcoming amendments on the ballot for water initiatives, now is the time to make a change.
San Antonio is very lucky to have such cutting edge water and energy technology. By operating smoothly and effectively, SAWS and CPS ensure affordable utilities for our great city. San Antonio is also lucky because of the people that live here–the people using these utilities who care about the future of our city. We can all contribute to change for the better, one gallon or kilowatt at a time.