The San Antonio Water System has begun negotiations to purchase a huge amount of water from an aquifer west of College Station in what would be the largest non Edwards Aquifer water source for the city, 1200 WOAI news reports.

  "Our community is growing by 20,000 new people every year," SAWS Greg Flores said.  "So for the long term, we know we are going to need water for those people and the jobs they are going to require and the quality of life they are going to require."

  Flores says SAWS is negotiating with a private water broker, the Vista Ridge Consortium, to buy up to 50,000 acre feet of water from an underground aquifer in Burleson County which the private group has obtain the rights to.  Flores says that is enough water to supply more than 150,000 homes.

  "This private entity has proposed digging the wells and building a pipeline to bring that water to San Antonio," Flores said.

  Negotiations are still underway on issues like whether SAWS would have to pay the consortium during times when its water is not needed, automatic price escalations, and payment of a $5 million annual 'reservation fee' to lock up the city's rights to the water while the pipeline is being constructed.  Flores says payment of the $5 million is not included in the SAWS request for proposals.

  SAWS President Robert Puente said he is confident that the remaining obstacles to working out a deal can be overcome.

  The Vista Ridge Consortium is led by the Spanish multi national firm Abengoa, which has interests in energy and water projects from solar energy to biofuels.

  Yes, the purchase of the water will require a rate hike for SAWS customers.

  "The rate increase could be voted on as early as this year, but would not go into effect, we don't think, until the water starts being delivered in 2019," Flores said.

  He says the size of the rate hike request has not been determined because no final agreement has been reached on the cost of the water itself.  But Flores said SAWS is committed to 'transparency' during the process of requesting the rate hike.