The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 106, July 2002 - April, 2003 Page: 373
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Restoring the Oldest Water Right in Texas
Finally, the city chartered the San Antonio Water Company in 1877.
The process of drilling artesian wells into the lower rock strata began,
depleting groundwater in the nearby springs as the source of the water
supply for the acequias. Local citizens were slowly persuaded to pur-
chase their drinking water from the water company and to discontinue
using river and ditch water for household purposes. Meanwhile, the old
irrigation ditches within the city began to take on new roles as collectors
of run-off water from watercourses that were allowed to empty directly
into the ditches, but even this function was eliminated with the construc-
tion of a modern storm drainage system in the 189os. In 1899 the city
council abolished the office of ditch commissioner and by 1902 had
transferred the administration of the municipal ditches to the head of
the sanitary and street cleaning department.12
A much more serious issue for San Antonio's public officials was the
flooding of city streets during major storms. The acequia of Mission
Concepci6n had been drawn, at the time of its construction in the late
172os, from a location on the Rio de San Antonio that had since
become the heart of the city. Up until the 186os the diversion dam for
this acequia was still intact, but there were increasing calls for its
removal because of the role it played in causing flooding in the down-
town streets of San Antonio. By this time, homes and commercial
structures were situated along both banks of the river, making city
streets prone to flooding by storm flows impeded by the Concepci6n
Dam. In 1869 this Spanish period structure was the first casualty of
urbanization, six years after the Texas Supreme Court had determined
that the dam was a nuisance and ordered that it should be removed
from the river."
Without the dam's diversion, the Concepci6n Acequia became useless
as an irrigation canal. The San Jos6 Acequia also had already ceased to
operate for other reasons and the Upper Labor Ditch met the same fate.
In the early 1900s the Alamo Acequia Madre for the old Mission San
Antonio de Valero was closed. Of the acequias located within the city,
the San Pedro Acequia lasted the longest, but it too ceased to function
around 19o6, leaving the San Juan and Espada as the only operating
ditches, the two rural systems most distant from the city's boundaries.
1' Charles M. Barnes, "Old Irrigation Ditches of San Antonio," San Antonio Express, July 6,
1902, photocopy in San Antonio Acequias folder, Texana Department (San Antonio Central
Library). Also see Frkuska, "Archaeological Investigations of the San Pedro Acequia, San
Antonio, Texas," 6.
'"William Henry Holmes, "The Acequias of San Antonio" (M.A. thesis, St. Mary's University,
1962), 104-105. For the actual case, see Rhodes v. Whitehead, 27 Tex. 304 (1863), or Joseph
Walker, Reports of Cases Argued and Decided in the Supreme Court of the State of Texas, vol. 27 (Austin:
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 106, July 2002 - April, 2003, periodical, 2003; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101223/m1/441/: accessed September 20, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.