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Social Perspectives on an Inter-Aquifer Water Transfer Project: The Vista Ridge Pipeline in Central Texas
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As municipal demand for water grows, large cities are seeking sources of water from more distant places. In the last century, large-scale water supply projects have become the predominant model of securitizing water resources for growing cities. In Texas, areas with groundwater supplies lie between the major urban centers and are largely low density, agricultural based communities. These areas, targeted because they present the path of least resistance because of legal and institutional weakness governing groundwater, are likely to experience an increase in water transfer projects in the coming decades. The Vista Ridge Pipeline (VRP) is the most recent of these projects. Currently under construction and highly controversial, the VRP will be capable of transporting 50,000 acre-feet annually of fresh groundwater from two rural counties in Central Texas to the state’s second largest city, San Antonio. The project represents a 20% increase in water supplies for San Antonio and is estimated to cost $3.4 billion, making it the largest transfer pipeline to date in Texas. Thus, to understand the controversy, I used Q-Method, an approach capable of quantifying individual stakeholder’s qualitative viewpoints, and had stakeholders representing rural landowners, journalists, lawyers, NGO members, prominent business owners, and municipal utility employees sort statements on the perceived impacts of the VRP project. The study revealed three social perspective clusters: two groups strongly oppose the project and one group of support. An emergent fourth group of individuals did not statistically load into the other groups but were found to also oppose the project. Overall, analysis revealed that opposition to the VRP project is not homogeneous and these differences are important to include in larger policy discussions regarding water governance and water security for all. The perspectives found are not unique to the VRP project and are likely to appear in the development of other water securitization projects.
Beckner, Sydney Starr (2018). Social Perspectives on an Inter-Aquifer Water Transfer Project: The Vista Ridge Pipeline in Central Texas. Master's thesis, Texas A & M University. Available electronically from