SAWS is investing $1.2 billion in its sewer system

In June 2013, SAWS approved a settlement agreement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that requires additional work to reduce sewer spills over the 2013 to 2025 term of the agreement. The agreement, or consent decree, avoided costly federal litigation and an uncertain outcome.

The responsible commitment to perform this additional work will improve service to SAWS ratepayers and protect the environment and our community. The costs of the settlement are included in SAWS’ rate increase projections.

Sewer spills are not unique to San Antonio. We are one of more than 40 cities across the country working under EPA agreements to reduce sewer spills.

Despite the cost of the agreement, SAWS bills will remain among the lowest in Texas.

Under the consent decree, SAWS will invest an estimated $855 million more than what the utility would have spent in the course of 10 to 12 years to reduce sewer spills and maintain its sewer system infrastructure.

The work required to comply with the consent decree includes system wide inspection along with cleaning and evaluation of sewer pipelines. Also required are the targeted replacement and rehabilitation of aging infrastructure. The work is tailored specifically to the 5,200 miles of pipe in the SAWS sewer system, avoiding unnecessary costs and focusing on the causes of sewer spills in San Antonio.

Program Progress to Date

As of January 2020, SAWS continue to meet all required milestones of the consent decree. SAWS is currently implementing the remedial measures plan by awarding and executing construction contracts.  SAWS will continue best practices after the consent decree is complete to ensure proper management of the utility’s sewer system assets.

Seventy-five percent of the sewer spills in San Antonio are caused by grease and debris. For years, SAWS has implemented an ongoing sewer spill reduction program. That effort has resulted in a 70 percent reduction in the number of spills from their peak.  SAWS achieved a record low year in 2019.

While the agreement requires additional costs, it represents a positive and meaningful investment in our city’s infrastructure.


Projected Over 10 Yrs Operating Capital
Total Estimated Investment After the Consent Decree $255 M $1.2 B
Historical Average Spending Level $148 M $452 M
Estimated Additional Cost as a Result of the Consent Decree $107 M $748 M

Rate projections already included this level of investment.