City council members pledged Tuesday to join The Border Organization in San Antonio Monday to voice opposition to a proposal to export Val Verde County water east to San Antonio via pipeline.

Sandra Fuentes, a co-chair of The Border Organization, a grassroots citizens’ group, told the city council Tuesday night, “The San Felipe Springs and the water that it provides to this community, both to the city and the county, is an important resource. It is essential to both maintaining and enhancing the quality of the life and essential for the future development of our community.

“We are faced by an impending crisis,” Fuentes said. “The crisis that would see the springs and its water, a resource that belongs to all of us, that is used as a public good and preserved for the good of all, could possibly be turned into a private commodity to be exploited and depleted for the benefit of a few.

“Our greatest enemy is not SAWS (the San Antonio Water System). Our greatest enemy is complacent and passivity. We believe that we can find a solution to the crisis we face, but we must be active in finding solutions. This community should have had a (groundwater conservation) district a long time ago, but we allowed those efforts to be sabotaged by the few whose interest is to profiteer from what belongs to all of us.

“The Border Organization will not be passive and we will not be complacent. And we call on the city council and the mayor to do the same,” Fuentes said.

SAWS several years ago accepted nine proposals to bring additional water to a growing and thirsty Bexar County and has now whittled those nine proposals down to three. Of the three Texas regions SAWS is considering as a source of new water, only Val Verde County does not have a groundwater conservation district.

Fuentes told the council that she and other TBO members will travel to San Antonio Monday to address the SAWS board of directors at SAWS’ monthly meeting, and said, “We will say to them that if the city of San Antonio needs new sources of water, they are going to have to deal with the city government of Del Rio and with the county of Val Verde. They have to deal with those who represent the interests of the many.”

Councilman Fred Contreras also took up the water issue Tuesday night. Contreras had placed an item in the “Other Business” section of the council agenda, asking for discussion of “possible opposition to the SAWS proposal for a long-term water supply involving Val Verde County.”

When his turn came to speak, Contreras said, “The reason why I brought this up is because I think we have been complacent for all this time, and taking the approach of ‘no news is good news,’ and in reality, I’m starting to think there is a lot going on behind the scenes, and I don’t think we are being told about it, so I approached Councilman Wrob and a friend of mine, John Yeackle, a former member of the Uvalde City Council, and we started talking about it, and we wanted to do a resolution because we were told about a possible meeting on Nov. 18.”

Contreras said no one is really sure yet whether SAWS will discuss the Val Verde water proposal at its Nov. 18 meeting, “but we need to be prepared.”

“We need to say, or oppose, or say that we’re in opposition of SAWS, do whatever we need to do to let them know that we’re going to take whatever means available to fight it.

Contreras then asked Yeackle, who also attended last night’s meeting, to address the council.

Yeackle, a Del Rio native and a former member of the Uvalde City Council, recounted some of the history of the fight against water exportation from Uvalde. He discussed how members of the Uvalde City Council worked with Uvalde citizens, business leaders and city and county elected officials to achieve a workable consensus in the fight.

“My point tonight is that there are things in motion that potentially threaten our regional resources, and no longer can individual cities fend these things off (them)selves. We need to come to some regional accommodation in which our leaders can come together and discuss the region’s future and its needs and decide, whether, within our region, there’s enough resources for ourselves, let alone anyone else,” Yeackle told the council.

Mayor Roberto “Bobby” Fernandez agreed that the water issue must be addressed from a regional perspective.

Fernandez said he has been in contact with Robert Puente, the director of SAWS, and said he was assured that before SAWS holds any discussions regarding the movement of water from Val Verde County to Bexar County, SAWS officials would contact Del Rio elected leaders.

Fernandez said SAWS is fully aware that Del Rio plans to oppose any plan to move Val Verde County water east, then presented a resolution that the city has prepared to formally oppose that move.

The mayor then read the resolution, “A resolution by the Del Rio City Council hereby expresses its strong opposition to any scheme to export large quantities of water from the region because the San Antonio Water System continues to consider a proposal to pipe water from Val Verde County while removing from consideration other proposals.”

“Whereas, research conducted by the Southwest Texas Research Institute indicates that there is no recharge of Edwards-Trinity Aquifer when rainfall drops below 80 percent of normal, and

“Whereas, several of the San Felipe Springs ceased flowing this year without the exportation of water from the aquifer, there can be no doubt that removing large amounts of water from the aquifer would have a devastating impact on the springs, and

“Whereas, water is life, and removing large amounts of water away from our aquifer represents taking away life and poses a threat to residential, commercial, industrial and agricultural sustainability and growth in the Del Rio region, and

“Whereas, the San Felipe Creek is home to several environmentally threatened species and whereas, the San Felipe Springs are the sole source of drinking water for the city of Del Rio and the lifeblood of our community, and

“Whereas, communities along the Rio Grande downstream from Del Rio are dependent on the output of the San Felipe Springs, and whereas, the Rio Grande watershed is an international body of water under the 1944 treaty between the United States and Mexico. . . Now, therefore, be it resolved by the city council of the city of Del Rio, Texas, that the city of Del Rio hereby resolves to use every legal means necessary to prevent the mass exportation of water from our region via pipeline,” Fernandez read.

After additional discussion, the council approved the resolution unanimously.

Fuentes then lauded the mayor for his reading of the resolution and challenged him and other members of the council to personally read the resolution to the SAWS board of directors.

Fernandez pledged to attend the SAWS meeting if discussion of Del Rio water was on its Monday agenda.

Councilman Mike Wrob said he believed the city could not wait and announced he would attend the Nov. 18 SAWS meeting and read the council’s resolution into the record.

All of the remaining members of the council also pledged to attend the meeting if the Val Verde water issue was on the agenda.

Reach Karen Gleason at 734-3021 or at karen.gleason@delrionewsherald.com

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