It's a new era for water in San Antonio as the San Antonio Water System is moving quickly on two key areas to vastly expand the growing city's access to water, Newsradio 1200 WOAI reports.

  The SAWS board on Tuesday agreed to negotiate with a private water broker, Vista Ridge Consortium, to buy a supply of water equal to about 20% of the city's current demand, from an underground aquifer west of College Station.

  SAWS Spokesman Greg Flores says a final cost of the project has not been determined because negotiations are still underway, but it won't be cheap.

  "This is a significant investment on the part of our community," Flores said.  "We are estimating something in the range of 16% increase on the bill by 2020."

  Water brokers are the new power players in Texas.  They buy property in rural areas and use the state's 'right of capture' to lay claim to aquifers and other water sources beneath the land.  They then sell that water to thirsty, growing big cities like San Antonio and Austin.

  Vista Ridge Consortium plans to build a pipeline from Burleson County to San Antonio to deliver the water, and the deal is expected to be for thirty years.  It covers 50,000 acre feet of water per year, of approximately 16 billion gallons of water per year.

  "We expect to have a contract before our board and before City Council some time this fall," Flores said.

  The plan now is for the contract to begin later this decade, probably 2018 to 2019.  Flores says a fast growing city like San Antonio, which badly needs water for economic development, can't afford to wait, and he says it is certain that water deliveries like this one will become harder to obtain as Texas grows.

  "The next step is to negotiate a contract that would be acceptable to this community for the purchase of this large, long term water supply," he said.

  Meanwhile, SAWS today breaks ground on his huge water desalination plant, the largest inland desal plant in the country.

  The goal of the plant, which will be located in Elmendorf in south Bexar County, will be to remove water from the Brackish deep Carrizo Aquifer underground, water which is now not useful for agriculture or drinking due to its high salt content.

   Desalination is expected to become a major player in water supply in the years and decades ahead.