Edwards Aquifer

Background

The Edwards Aquifer provides San Antonio with an abundant source of groundwater vital to the livelihood of a growing population and an expanding economy. It stretches across thousands of acres over several counties in South Central Texas. Roughly 70 percent of the recharge zone is located west of Bexar County.

Rainfall enters the aquifer through fractures, caves, sinkholes and other features and replenishes the aquifer. However, rapid growth and development continue to impact the aquifer, reducing the number of recharge features needed to maintain San Antonio's primary water resource.

While rules are in place to regulate development and pollution, the best way to protect the aquifer is to conserve the sensitive and irreplaceable land located over its recharge and contributing zones.

Propositions

2000 Proposition 3

Details

Voters first approved a 1/8-of-a-cent addition to the local sales tax in 2000 to collect $45 million to purchase sensitive properties located over the Edwards Aquifer. Before this election, there was no program designed to identify and protect sensitive land located over the aquifer. This was a parks and watershed program and, due to restrictions in state legislation, protection efforts under the Proposition 3 program were limited to Bexar County.

The majority of these funds (approximately $38 million) were used to acquire almost 6,500 acres of land. Many of the properties were former ranches and estates characterized by unique natural and man-made features and hilltops with long, scenic views. The properties range in size from 50 to 1,164 acres and are located primarily over north central and northwest Bexar County. Properties will be turned into natural areas for hiking and nature appreciation and will become distinctive pieces of San Antonio's municipal park system. Remaining funds were used for park operations and maintenance and for appropriate improvements designed for recreational and educational purposes.

Properties (Acres)

  • Canyon Ranch (421)
  • Cedar Creek (240)
  • Crownridge (208)
  • Gallagher Ranch (710)
  • Hampton Tract (50)
  • Iron Horse Ranch (594)
  • Kallison Ranch (1,164)
  • Kosarek Tract (23)
  • Madla Park (42)
  • Mayberry Tract (345)
  • Medallion (161)
  • Rancho Diana (1,153)
  • Schuchart Tract (91)
  • Windgate Ranch (1,024)
  • Woodland Hills (327)

Total: 6,553 acres

2005 Proposition 1

Details

In 2005, voters again approved a 1/8-of-a-cent addition to the local sales tax, this time to collect $90 million for the purchase of sensitive properties located over the Edwards Aquifer. Due to changes in the state legislation, funds collected through the 2005 Edwards watershed protection initiative, titled Proposition 1, were used to acquire and preserve the most environmentally-sensitive properties located over the aquifer within Bexar County and beyond county lines.

Careful consideration was given to the selection of appropriate properties for acquisition as part of the Edwards Protection Program. A Scientific Evaluation Team (SET) consisting of aquifer experts convened to prioritize undeveloped properties based on their environmental characteristics in order to achieve maximum value for voter-approved dollars. The SET is comprised of scientific experts representing various disciplines from an assortment of agencies and institutions, including the Edwards Aquifer Authority, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Geological Survey and the San Antonio Water System. The SET produced a GIS-based model to identify and rank sensitive properties for inclusion in the Edwards Aquifer Protection Program. The SET model serves as a decision-making tool for the the program's Conservation Advisory Board (CAB) and Land Acquisition Team (LAT) to assist in identifying properties that may be considered for the conservation easement program. The model uses a variety of indicators to identify properties that contain unique and desirable features that warrant long term protection based on attributes that are valuable to enhancing water quality and quantity over sensitive areas of the Edwards Aquifer. The model utilizes multiple datasets that reflect the most current information regarding items such as: permeability of the Edwards limestone below the surface; the streams and creeks flowing over the surface; the types of plants present; and the adjacency to existing preserved open spaces.

Following acquisition, the environmental characteristics of each of the protected properties are monitored and evaluated on an annual basis to ensure compliance with aquifer protection program guidelines and restrictions.

Properties (Acres)

  • Blanco Springs Ranch (4,299)
  • Bourquin Ranch (610)
  • Bradford-Hixon Ranch (2,657)
  • Brucks Ranch (778)
  • Classen Ranch (82)
  • Dreiss/Laredo Culebra (172)
  • Figg Ranch (542)
  • Finger Ranch (1,795)
  • Friday Ranch (7,273)
  • Frio Ranch (14,327)
  • Gulley/Lee Ranch (6,140)
  • Hadley Ranch (414)
  • Hammond Ranch (16,111)
  • Hixon Ranch (788)
  • Jordan Ranch (2,917)
  • Koch Ranch (814)
  • Livergood Ranch (321)
  • Long Hollow Ranch (13,192)
  • Moore Ranch (583)
  • Mustang Valley (2,558)
  • Oefinger Ranch (855)
  • Orihel Ranch (438)
  • R. Martin Ranch (1,000)
  • Saathoff Ranch (675)
  • Scenic Canyon (453)
  • Schrieber Ranch (1,003)
  • South Hills Ranch (933)
  • TMR Ranch (1,980)
  • Tull Ranch (334)
  • Wallace Ranch (1,208)
  • WMJ Ranch (1,045)
  • Young Ranch (2,927)
  • Zuberbueler Ranch (818)

Total: 90,042 acres

2010 Proposition 1

Details

In November 2010, voters approved the continuation of the 2005 sales tax (up to $90 million) for the Edwards Aquifer Protection Program. Under Proposition 1, the City of San Antonio continued the watershed protection and preservation projects initiated in 2000 and continued in 2005 for preservation of sensitive land across strategic areas of the aquifer's recharge and contributing zones.

Properties (Acres)

  • Barden Ranch (1,251)
  • Barkley Ranch (720)
  • Barnes Bluff Ranch (977)
  • Bludworth Ranch (1,713)
  • Bluehill Pass (41)
  • Boulders at Canyon Springs (10)
  • Brink Ranch (317)
  • Burell Ranch (354)
  • C. Story Ranch (317)
  • Calvert Ranch (433)
  • Classen-Steubing (160)
  • Concan Ranch (2,015)
  • Crescent Hills (1,521)
  • Cypress Roots Ranch (645)
  • Dehnisch Ranch (2,057)
  • Depuy Ranch (650)
  • Domino Ranch (2,636)
  • El Rancho (514)
  • ESS Ranch (4,168)
  • Evans Ranch (3,888)
  • Gilleland Ranch (1,951)
  • Goodhorse Ranch (229)
  • H.B. Martin Ranch (5,000)
  • Heep Ranch (1,213)
  • Hilsher-Darnell Ranch (236)
  • Horton Ranch (1,958)
  • Howard Ranch (317)
  • Hutzler Ranch (1,847)
  • J. Story Ranch (317)
  • KHK Ranch (384)
  • L.L. Schuehle Ranch (1,706)
  • Laurel Canyon Ranch (549)
  • Ma-Be Canyon Ranch (461)
  • Martin Family Ranch (317)
  • McCauley Ranch (317)
  • McNair Ranch (793)
  • McNeel Ranch (822)
  • Middle Verde Ranch (2,830)
  • Urso Ranch (1,322)
  • W. Story Ranch (317)
  • W.O. Rothe Ranch (3,141)
  • Wylesta Ranch (664)

Total: 51,078 acres

2015 Proposition 1

Details

In May 2015, voters approved the continuation of the 2005 sales tax (up to $100 million) for the Edwards Aquifer Protection Program. Under Proposition 1, the City of San Antonio will continue the watershed protection and preservation projects initiated in 2000 and continued through 2010. In addition to the $90 million set aside for watershed protection and preservation of sensitive land over the aquifer's recharge and contributing zones, $10 million will be used to create new protection zones within urban areas of Bexar County with the intention of safeguarding the city's drinking water. By working with scientists, conservationists, landowners, and concerned citizens, the City of San Antonio looks forward to building on the success of the past aquifer protection initiatives.

Properties (Acres)

  • 3 T's Heritage Ranch (766)
  • Bendele Ranch (176)
  • Blackwell Ranch (412)
  • Briseno Ranch (1,175)
  • Chapman Ranch (86)
  • Cibolo Vista Tract 3 (96)
  • Cibolo Vista Tracts 1 & 2 (151)
  • Crane Bat Cave Property (75)
  • Currier Ranch (191)
  • Dripstone Ranch (1,891)
  • East Verde Creek Ranch (437)
  • Eisenhower Tract (102)
  • Gallagher Ranch (742)
  • Germer Ranch (129)
  • Graham Ranch (61)
  • Gruendler Ranch (86)
  • Honeycutt Ranch (204)
  • J. Bendele Ranch (248)
  • Lazy K Ranch (817)
  • Pack Property (31)
  • Pouncy Ranch (1,052)
  • Providence Springs Ranch (1,544)
  • R. Bendele Ranch (154)
  • Rancho Blanco (1,105)
  • San Antonio MUD No. 1 (67)
  • Saunders Family Ranch (237)
  • Treehouse Ranch (80)
  • Voges Ranch (433)

Total: 12,549 acres

Grand Total: 160,330 acres

Conservation Advisory Board

About the Board

The Edwards Aquifer Protection Program is overseen by the Conservation Advisory Board (CAB). The CAB is comprised of nine members appointed by the San Antonio City Council for two-year terms. City Ordinance provides for nominees from the following subdivisions, agencies or organizations: Texas Parks and Wildlife, Edwards Aquifer Authority, San Antonio River Authority, San Antonio Water System, Parks & Recreation Advisory Board, The Economic Development Foundation, Medina County, Uvalde County, and the director of the San Antonio Parks & Recreation Department.

The Board was created on April 6, 2000, to provide input and advice to City Council on the development of the approved sales tax, Proposition No. 3 entitled "Park Development and Expansion Venue Project." The Board continued in this capacity when, on May 7, 2005, voters approved Proposition No. 1, the "Edwards Aquifer Protection Venue Project," which continued the City of San Antonio's program of protecting the Edwards Aquifer.

Current Board Agenda

Current Conservation Advisory Board (CAB) Agenda

Current CAB Members

  • Francine Romero, Chair Parks & Recreation Advisory Board
  • Jessica Alderson, Texas Parks and Wildlife
  • Rogelio Garcia, The Economic Development Foundation
  • Homer Garcia III, San Antonio Parks & Recreation Interim Director
  • Brock Curry, Edwards Aquifer Authority
  • Russell Persyn, Medina County
  • Stephen Graham, San Antonio River Authority
  • Vacant, Uvalde County
  • Scott Halty, San Antonio Water System

Funding

San Antonio is one of the fastest growing cities in the country. Growth offers the opportunity for economic prosperity in the form of business development, higher-paying jobs, home ownership and other rewards. Yet growth also poses certain challenges for citizens to maintain a high quality of life such as an increased demand for services, the need to provide more recreational opportunities and greater use of vital resources, most notably: water.

Cities like San Antonio have been provided with valuable tools to maintain a high quality of life for residents. Through the use of a voter-approved sales tax, San Antonio can create economic development or "venue" funds to support comprehensive plans identified as community priorities. In May 2000, voters first approved venue funds to support aquifer protection and parks expansion including the development of linear creekways. From 2005 to 2015, voters approved three separate venues to continue each of those endeavors.

Each venue is supported by an increase and an investment of 1/8 of a cent in the local sales tax, or one cent for every eight taxable dollars. Taxable merchandise includes items most residents buy every day such as clothing, fast food or electronics. It does not include non-taxable goods such as most groceries, medicine or health services. These projects also would be supported by visitors from outside of San Antonio who contribute to the local sales tax. The sales tax collected to support the Edwards Aquifer Protection venue is set at $90 million with an additional $10 million set-aside in 2015 for water quality protection zones in urban areas of Bexar County. The sales tax is collected until the set amount for each project has been earned.

Protected Properties

Protected Properties Map

The following map illustrates the properties currently included in the Edwards Aquifer Protection initiative. The protection area includes Bexar, Medina and Uvalde Counties.

Edwards Aquifer Protection Program Area Map (PDF)

Area Maps

Maps of county specific properties can be accessed below:

Conservation Easement FAQs

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A conservation easement is a voluntary agreement between a landowner and the City of San Antonio (CoSA) to preserve the natural condition of lands that lie over the Edwards Aquifer Recharge and Contributing Zones for the protection of the quantity and quality of water entering the aquifer. The CoSA is responsible for the long term monitoring and enforcement of the provisions of the easement. Once a conservation easement is signed, it is recorded with the County in which the land is located and applies to all future owners of the land.

Conservation easements are flexible legal tools that allow both a landowner and a qualified holder of the easement, in this case the CoSA, to find common ground in their conservation objectives. People often sell or donate conservation easements because they wish to protect their property from unwanted development while retaining ownership of the land. Because a conservation easement is designed to run with the land in perpetuity, it ensures that the property will be protected forever, regardless of who owns the land in the future.

Additionally, because the purchase price of a conservation easement is less than the fair market value of a property, the Edwards Aquifer Protection Program is able to preserve more land over the aquifer than if we were acquiring fee title. Thus, the CoSA is soundly investing in both the present and long-term protection of San Antonio's primary water source.

Typically, larger parcels of land are the most desirable because they provide a larger area of protection from development. However, if certain geological or hydrological features are present on a smaller parcel of land, that property may become as important to water quality as the larger property. Each parcel of land considered for inclusion in the Edwards Aquifer Protection Program is analyzed and considered on a case-by-case basis.

Conservation easements are designed to meet the needs of the CoSA and the goals of the Edwards Aquifer Protection Program: protecting the water quality and quantity of the Edwards Aquifer. Landowners considering an easement should consult with family members as well as professional tax and legal advisors to best determine whether this tool will help accomplish their long-term conservation and economic goals.

All of the CoSA's Edwards Aquifer Protection Program conservation easements are perpetual. Since the goals of the easement are to protect water quality and quantity, it is important that these lands be protected in perpetuity.

Yes, but any future development on the property will be limited. A conservation easement typically allows landowners to build within designated building zones, but only to pre-determined amounts of impervious land cover - usually equaling one-half of one percent of the property's total acreage. (Example: a 500 acre property would allow for up to 108,900 square feet of impervious cover in the building zones.)

Yes, property with a conservation easement may be bought, sold and inherited. However, the conservation easement is tied to the land and binds all present and future owners to its terms and restrictions.

No. Edwards Aquifer Protection Program conservation easements grant no right of access to the general public. However, the CoSA, the Edwards Aquifer Authority (EAA) and their contractors must be allowed to enter the property, with prior landowner notification and approval, to conduct annual monitoring of the easement.

It is the policy of the CoSA to hold and enforce its conservation easements as written. Amendments to conservation easements will be authorized only in limited situations and only in the types of conditions outlined in the Edwards Aquifer Protection Program's Conservation Easement Amendment Policy. No amendments to conservation easements will be granted which could cause an easement to violate applicable federal, state or local laws, regulations or ordinances.

Upon signing a conservation easement, the CoSA and the landowner enter into a partnership intended to meet the goals of the easement. Landowners may continue to use their property as before but with some new limitations. Additionally, the easement will be monitored on an annual basis to ensure program compliance. It is the CoSA objective to maintain healthy landowner relations and to provide conservation-related services to participating landowners on an as-needed basis.

All owners of a property must agree to the terms of the conservation easement before it can be recorded.

Conservation easements are recognized for legal and tax purposes by the State of Texas (Chapter 183, Texas Natural Resources Code) and the Internal Revenue Service (Internal Revenue Code, Section 170(h)). Before initiating a conservation easement agreement, landowners should consult with their legal and tax advisors.

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San Antonio, TX 78205

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San Antonio, TX 78283-3966

Staff

Phillip Covington
Special Projects Manager
210.207.3003
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Susan Courage
Senior Management Analyst
210.207.2162
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David Bernal
Management Analyst
210.207.2810
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Grant Ellis
Natural Resources Manager
210.207.2815
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Thursday, August 6, 2020