April 19


The suburbs v. the aquifer

Artwork by San Antonio's own Gary Sweeney. Courtesy of the artist.Artwork by San Antonio's own Gary Sweeney. Courtesy of the artist.Portland, Oregon, has become famous for its dense, walkable urban environment, and is often treated as a model for smart growth among mid-size American cities. One key to Portland’s successful development model is a regulation that aimed not to improve the urban core but to protect the farmland just beyond it. The city’s Urban Growth Boundary was enacted in 1976 as part of a state law to defend farmers against the encroachment of suburban growth (Randy Bear touched on this last June in a column on Portland).

I thought about this as I read the news that San Antonio had purchased 461 acres just outside highway 1604, northwest of the city, which will be incorporated into Government Canyon State Natural Area. This deal, and many others like it, was funded by a dedicated sales tax which since 2000 has provided about $225 million to purchase and preserve land over the Edwards Aquifer. Just as Portland strengthened its urban core by protecting farmers, could the City of San Antonio do so by protecting its only significant supply of water?

If it was up to the people of San Antonio, there’s a good chance it could.

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