Both San Antonio and Austin grew up alongside rivers and sit in the heart of the state, a region prone to hot, dry temperatures and flash floods. For these reasons, residents have always fiercely protected and valued their water.
When Spanish settlers first founded San Antonio in 1718, they wasted no time developing a cutting-edge water supply system. Early settlers used acequias or irrigation canals, which ran along the Edwards Aquifer still in use today. Residents strove to keep the canals contaminant-free, planting cacti along the banks to keep animals away. The system persisted for nearly 150 years until a severe cholera outbreak caused officials to establish a more traditional water system.
Learn more about the history of water distribution in San Antonio and San Antonio tap water by watching the video below:
A Story of Sustainability from San Antonio Water System on Vimeo.
As the population grew, so too did the need for more water. City planners needed to look for new sources of water to keep up. Residents can thank former Mayor Nelson Wolff for his initiatives to improve San Antonio water quality while protecting its wildlife. Legislation signed in 1993 established the San Antonio Water System to conserve species living in the Edwards Aquifer while finding complementary sources of water.
Today, San Antonio pumps more than 154 million gallons of groundwater from the Edwards aquifer daily. Other sources of San Antonio tap water come from the groundwater of the Carrizo, Trinity, and Wilcox aquifers, and in some areas, surface water from Canyon Lake.
According to a recent report from the San Antonio Water System, water goes through purification from one of 3 wastewater treatment plants, although tap water may contain some contaminants and secondary constituents such as calcium, sodium, or iron.
You could call Austin the younger sister of San Antonio, sitting just 80 miles north and founded in 1837 at the convergence of the Colorado River and the Shoal Creek. Formerly called Waterloo, the future capital city of Texas later became Austin, named after legendary forefather Stephen F. Austin.
Although chartered until 1839, it would take another 40 years to establish the Austin water system. Not unlike residents today, early Austinites drew their drinking water from the Colorado River. Austin’s first dam, clocking in at 60-feet high, was built in 1893, that is, until a catastrophic failure seven years later that flooded or destroyed parts of the city.
As Austin residents kayak along the banks of the Colorado River, which flows into Lake Travis and Austin, they can trace this water through the city and into their homes. Whether utilizing water from the ground or at the surface, consumers can face any number of imperfections in their Austin water quality. As water travels through the ground or over the land, it picks up naturally occurring minerals and animal or human pollution. This often manifests as an earthy or musty odor or taste, especially after construction or lots of rain.