CPS Energy’s leased water rights help conservation plan while generating revenue

CPS Energy has leased some of its historic but underutilized water rights to the Edwards Aquifer Authority, which will use the additional water as part of its Habitat Conservation Plan.

The lease benefits the community in two ways. It helps the EAA implement the plan to protect spring flows and endangered species, and it turns an unused asset into revenue for CPS Energy — and that helps keep rates low for customers.

CPS Energy regularly reviews assets as they relate to the utility’s core business of supplying reliable, affordable power to its customers. Just as it recently made the decision to sell its communications towers for $41 million and get out of the tower management business, a recent integrated resource analysis of CPS Energy’s unused water rights found value in leasing a portion to the community.

The EAA’s plan, approved locally in 2011 and by the USFW last year, strives to create a balance between the federal mandate to protect endangered species that rely on the Edwards Aquifer and the region’s dependence on the same aquifer as its primary water resource.

Painstakingly developed over several years through what was known as the Edwards Aquifer Recovery Implementation Program, or EARIP, the plan was crafted by a variety of regional stakeholders, including the cities of New Braunfels, San Marcos, San Antonio through the San Antonio Water System, U.S. Fish and Wildlife, Texas Parks and Wildlife and  CPS Energy.

EARIP received a ‘Partners in Conservation Award’ from the Secretary of the Interior in late January.

This video offers an in-depth look at the Habitat Conservation Plan and its importance to our region:

[youtube_sc url=”http://youtu.be/bL9a2f39HZI”]

As part of the plan, the EAA facilitates the leasing of others’ unused water rights to SAWS for use in its underground Aquifer Storage and Recovery program. CPS Energy’s lease agreement for 1,000 acre feet a year for three years is worth about $200,000 annually to the utility.

The ASR program “is an important part” of the habitat plan, said Rick Illgner of the EAA. He said the agency generally likes longer leases, “but we’ll work with any entity that has that much water to lease.”

One acre-foot is the amount of water needed to cover an acre of land to a depth of one foot, or 325,851 gallons, about the average annual use of two families.

CPS Energy is working on a similar lease agreement with SAWS as part of its continued collaboration to best manage the region’s water and energy resources.

“We’re always looking to get the most from our assets,” said Cris Eugster, who oversees generation and strategy for the utility. “This plan helps ensure that the community has the water it needs during these times of drought, while also allowing CPS Energy to retain our water rights over the long term.”

Tracy Idell Hamilton

Tracy Idell Hamilton was part of the Corporate Communications team at CPS Energy.

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