Associate Dean Dr. Francine Romero studies Edwards Aquifer and water conservation policies


Article by Jesus Chavez | Public Affairs Specialist II, University Communications

(July 29, 2015) -- For much of the last decade, Texas has suffered through varying degrees of drought, turning water issues into a hot discussion topic. It should come as no surprise then that many UTSA experts have been preoccupied with studying San Antonio’s primary source of water: the Edwards Aquifer.

Francine Romero is one of those many experts. As a researcher and chair of the San Antonio Conservation Advisory Board (CAB), Romero has spent many years researching and recommending conservation policies related to the Edwards Aquifer and water use in Texas. The CAB makes recommendations to City Council on matters related to aquifer protection.

“The Edwards Aquifer has been crucial to San Antonio citizens and is considered the basis for our entire community,” said Romero, professor and associate dean of the UTSA College of Public Policy. “Without the Edwards Aquifer, San Antonio’s growth and sustainability as a city would have been impossible.”

The Edwards Aquifer runs under 8,800 square miles of Texas land. For more than 12,000 years, it has faithfully served as a natural source of water for the people of central and south Texas. According to the Edwards Aquifer Authority, more than two million Texas citizens, including farmers and landowners, currently rely on its water to maintain their way of life.

As recently as two decades ago, San Antonio relied exclusively on the aquifer for its water -- until a lawsuit forced the city to diversify its water sources and establish the Edwards Aquifer Authority. As of this year, the San Antonio Water System (SAWS) pumps approximately 136.5 million gallons of water each day.

Due to its regional importance, preservation of the Edwards Aquifer through policy and research is a priority for Romero. Over her career, she has developed a deep understanding of the many conservation efforts in progress that are related to the aquifer. While at UTSA, she has helped foster discussions to raise awareness of and protect San Antonio’s main water source.

“While the Edwards Aquifer running completely dry is highly unlikely, there are many factors we need to consider as we plan for our region’s future,” said Romero. “Given state-mandated pumping restrictions to the aquifer and San Antonio’s exploding population, which doesn’t seem to be slowing down, sole reliance on the Edwards as a main source of water could result in severe shortages.”

Recently, SAWS received approval to build a new water pipeline to pump water into San Antonio. Romero and her colleagues in the College of Public Policy coordinated a three-part public discussion with SAWS and community leaders (“Conversations on Water”) regarding the Vista Ridge Pipeline Project.

Though San Antonio will soon gain a new major source of water in the Vista Ridge Pipeline, Romero says that conservation and use of the aquifer must remain a priority.

“The Edwards Aquifer is still the cheapest and cleanest water available to us. It provides and will continue to provide water opportunities to us that other sources simply cannot. For example, we now have the ability to pump and store excess Edwards Aquifer water in other aquifers, which can be of great use in drier years.”

Beyond her faculty and administrative roles at UTSA and with CAB, Romero is an affiliate of the Water Institute of Texas, located at UTSA, and is the San Antonio District 8 Zoning Commissioner. She is the author of two non-fiction books: “Presidents from Theodore Roosevelt through Coolidge, 1901-1929: Debating the Issues in Pro and Con Primary Documents,” “Civil Rights Policymaking in the United States: An Institutional Perspective” and numerous journal articles.

View Francine Romero’s expert source profile for more information about her research and expertise.

Learn more about the UTSA College of Public Policy.