Water Hazard

San Antonio mayor Ed Garza says a proposed $750 million golf resort won't pollute the Edwards Aquifer. Are his greens really that green?

A COUPLE OF MONTHS AGO, I was sitting in the Military Plaza office of San Antonio mayor Ed Garza as he tried to explain to me how a proposed 2,600-acre Professional Golfers’ Association resort situated on a portion of the Edwards Aquifer Recharge Zone would be a safe project for the city’s sole source of drinking water. “I think anything can be designed to be environmentally friendly,” he told me. “The big question is, Do you leave it up to individual households, with an unknown quantity of homes, or do you leave it up to an organization that will be held accountable for its decisions long-term?”

His assertion seemed fair enough. A development owned by one entity ought to be much easier to strictly regulate than a residential community full of individual homeowners. Still, there was a gap in his logic. To keep their fairways green, golf courses require more water than comparably sized residential communities and use prodigious amounts of pesticides and fertilizers. In a recharge zone—the porous land sitting above an aquifer—these pollutants can easily seep into the groundwater. So although Garza’s argument seemed reasonable, I decided to look into the larger question: Do the PGA resort’s three courses include enough environmental safeguards to guarantee protection of the Edwards Aquifer?

The answer, I’m afraid, is probably not. But before I tell you why, let me explain how Garza found himself in the strange position of championing the environmental merits of a golf course in the first place. Last spring, in a 9-2 vote, San Antonio’s city council approved plans for a $750 million resort north of the city dubbed PGA Village, a joint venture between the Florida-based Professional Golfers’ Association of America and Lumbermen’s Investment Corporation of Austin, the owner of the land in question. To make the

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