Local group seeks to meet the skyrocketing demand here for one of life’s basic necessities…. WATER

Over 7,000 homes have been built in Medina County from 2017-2024. Local leaders are forming an alliance to help with water security as more rights are needed to meet future demands.
All the while, subdividers continue bringing more plats for approval at local city council and county meetings. The water alliance held a meeting this past Tuesday in the Medina County Commissioner’s Court room (look for coverage on that meeting next week as the meeting was held on press day).
The alliance eventualy hopes to secure state funding and to construct a Aquifer Storage and Recovery System for Medina County. Photo by Anton Riecher

By Kayleen Holder
If you take a quick glance at the State’s projections regarding the supply and demand of water in Medina County, the numbers might not look so bad. But those numbers are rather misleading or outdated as one local expert explains, and here’s why.
“This report was based on our historic growth rate of 2-3%. Over the past three years, we have increased the number of water services by nearly 25% increasing the amount of additional water needed to meet future demands,” said Bruce Alexander of East Medina Water.
The number of homes in Medina County has grown from 18,791 to 25,938 in the past seven years (2017-2024), with many more huge developments still underway such as the 750+ home subdivisions coming in on I-35 just south of Devine.

East Medina currently owns 2,205.612 acre feet of Edwards Aquifer Water Rights.
The outdated Texas Water Development Board report for projected water demands in Medina County suggests we are in need of an additional 140 acre-feet of water each year beginning in 2020 and 455 acre-feet in 2070, but this is wildly underestimated Alexander explains.
In fact, local water districts like East Medina have already found themselves needing to acquire more water rights.
To combat the problem, East Medina reached out and leased other rights from landowners.
“The district leased an additional 300 acre-feet of unrestricted water rights in 2023 to meet system demands. In 2024, we estimate the need to lease up to 600 acre-feet of water rights to meet the increased system demands,” Alexander said.
The amount of water rights a utility district or city can use is also compounded by the pumping reductions required by the Edwards Aquifer Authority during a drought. The total critical period reductions for 2024 are estimated to be 36-40% of the amount of water permitted for withdrawal from the aquifer.
“East Medina, for example, currently owns sufficient water rights to meet all of our system demands with up to a 30% annual critical period reduction in our Edwards Withdrawal permits. As we continue to experience the rate of growth we are having, the gap in what we have available for use versus what we need to meet system demands closes, and we are faced with the need to either purchase additional water rights, lease additional water rights, or look for an alternative source of water during critical period pumping reductions.”
 Nine years ago, East Medina owned enough water rights to meet all of its system demands, even when the most stringent 44% annual pumping reductions hit, he adds.
“Today, due to explosive growth in the past three years, the need to secure additional water rights through purchase or lease is here,” Alexander said.
To complicate matters, “Ten years ago the district entered into conservation leases with the EAA for 350 acre-feet of what we considered our surplus water rights. Due to the level of the aquifer over the past two years, the district has been unable to use these water rights in 2023 and 2024,” Alexander said.
So what can we do?
The Medina County Regional Water Alliance was started by Yancey WSC and East Medina to join forces in seeking future water supplies in addition to the Edwards Aquifer.
“We have reached out to every city and water supply corporation in Medina County and asked them to join. Each entity will be responsible for their portion of the cost associated with the alliance based on the number of water meters they have. It is my understanding that we have a preliminary verbal commitment for most to join the alliance at this time.
So far, the East Medina Board and Yancey WSC are the only water providers whose boards have officially chosen to become part of the alliance.
“The group has not set up a board of directors for the alliance yet. Yancey is taking the lead at the meetings and with the Region L feasibility study with East Medina having a shared seat at the table. Once others officially sign on as members, they plan to set up a board with specific positions and responsibilities,” Alexander said. “A draft agreement has been circulated asking for comments and approval by each system wanting to part of the alliance.”
 “This is something that East Medina and Yancey have been discussing for the past couple of years. We are at a point that we feel we need to actively pursue an additional source of water to meet our future demands. We wanted to offer the opportunity for others to joins us in this endeavor. We anticipate that anyone that chooses not to participate in the beginning may have a buy-in type expense if they decided to join at a later date,” Alexander said.
“The name of the alliance – Medina County Regional Water Alliance – came out of a discussion that we needed to have a name to organize a separate entity to use for funding and operations independent of any one entity that would collectively represent every member. Each member would have a say in the alliance based on their level of participation as determined by their percentage of the total number of water meters in service in Medina County,” Alexander said.
It won’t solve all of the problems, he cautions and it will take time to come to fruition.
“Like any other commodity, what someone is willing to pay combined with supply and demand drives the cost. It is difficult, to say the least, to compete with another utility that serves more than 500,000 customers with much greater financial resources,” Alexander said.
The new alliance will not stop our friends to the east – SAWS (San Antonio Water System)– or any other Edwards Aquifer permit holder from acquiring additional water rights from permit holders in Medina County. Generally speaking, Edwards Aquifer water rights are a commodity available on the open market to be leased, bought, or sold by permit holders.
“Several years ago, for example, the price of water rights appeared to double overnight when word got out of a major development on the north side of San Antonio willing to pay a premium price per acre-foot,” Alexander said.
A similar thing appears to be a driving force in the increased cost of water as municipal permit holders compete for the ability to purchase water rights and/or secure long term leases of water rights to meet current and future demands, he says.
“Often times the larger utilities have the advantage as smaller systems lack the financial resources to act fast when water rights become available for purchase,” Alexander said.
The projected benefits of the MCRWA will not appear overnight, he adds. Alexander estimates it could take several years to fully fund and construct the infrastructure needed to get the proposed ASR system up and running.
“In hindsight, we probably should have started this years ago,” Alexander said.
He plans to go after state funding available to alliances like the newly created one in Medina County.
Action was taken during the last legislative session to seek voter approval to set aside $1 billion to fund water projects with $250 million, specifically for new water resources like an ASR he explained.
“The current funding opportunity through the Texas Water Development Board combined with our increased growth rates has pushed this issue to the front of the line for East Medina County SUD and Yancey WSC as we work to secure an alternative water source for the current and future residents of Medina County.”
“Each member of the MCRWA would continue to manage the ownership of their individual water rights,” Alexander said. “One vision for the MCRWA is for it to be in a position to gather together any surplus water rights from member systems for storage and future use and to collectively purchase additional water rights that can then be leased to member systems as needed to meet their system demands during critical period reductions of withdrawals from the Edwards Aquifer.
 “Twenty years ago I stressed the need for each water system to own or have direct access to a minimum of 25% more water rights than your anticipated annual demand to be able to meet critical period reductions. Today my recommendation is to have up to 40% more than is needed to ensure that all public water system demands are met during increased critical period reductions based on the level of the aquifer and increasing system demands as a result of development and commercial growth in Medina County,” Alexander adds.
 East Medina has already taken some measures to protect the water supply from the surge of incoming developments.
“The district requires all subdivisions and commercial developments subject to our rules for service to provide transferable Edwards Aquifer unrestricted water rights to the district to meet the demands of the development. Our rules currently require the developer to provide ½ acre feet of water rights for each lot or additional water rights based on their estimated water demands for commercial accounts. In 2023 the district modified this policy to require transferable water rights for any development of four (4) or more lots as a condition of getting water service from the district. Rural water systems are not required to provide service to a development that does not meet the requirements for service as long as the system publishes a notice using specific language and informs developers of the their rules for service,” Alexander said.
Several systems have had this requirement in place for many years.