The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 106, July 2002 - April, 2003 Page: 391
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Restoring the Oldest Water Right in Texas
constructed upstream of the one that had collapsed in 1977. This time
the dam would include a pumping station of sufficient capacity to siphon
water from the bed of the river at an elevation of 540 feet to underneath
the eastern bank of the San Antonio River, where giant screw-pumps
would then "lift" the water to 560 feet inside a pump house. From there a
thirty-inch pipe would deliver "gravity flow" water to the old river channel
near the site of the old San Juan Dam so that river water would "flow nat-
urally" to the headgate of the San Juan Acequia.65
This new SARA dam was completed in 1993 along with the pump
house facilities. The structure itself was an "Ogee Weir Dam," which
required only a five-foot height to impound enough water to be
siphoned into the pump house constructed on the eastern bank of the
river. Inside the pump house were three Archimedes screw-pumps simi-
lar in function to the wooden, helicoidal cylinders used in Egypt to lift
water for use in irrigation during ancient times. The SARA purchased
these modern screw-pumps from a private company that in turn had
borrowed the two thousand-year-old technique from the Greek mathe-
matician, Archimedes, who had observed and adapted the technology
about 250 B.C. Instead of being turned or cranked by hand, these modi-
fied Archimedean screws at the SARA facility were powered by electricity
and were designed to pump 17 million gallons of water a day using com-
puterized systems to regulate the direction and quantity of water. With
the new dam, pump house, and the Archimedean screw-pumps in place,
the SARA then concentrated on repairing the San Juan Acequia at the
location of the creek crossings further downstream.6
The San Antonio River Authority was not alone in its efforts to restore
water to the old San Juan Acequia during the 1990s. Years earlier, the
National Park Service (NPS) of the United States Department of Interior
had joined the project. In 1975 the Southwest Regional Office of the
NPS in Santa Fe, New Mexico, conducted a feasibility study of the Texas
missions south of downtown San Antonio for purposes of incorporating
them into the system of national parks.67 In 1978 President Jimmy Carter
signed into law a bill that included the establishment of the San Antonio
Missions National Historical Park. Henceforth, four of the missions,
including San Juan Capistrano, would be administered, interpreted, and
6""Lakeside Equipment Corporation, "Ancient Technology Provides Solution to 25o-year-old
Problem," Lakeszde Tzmes (Oct., 1996), 1, 8; Dean Bayer, San Antonio River Authority, toJos6 A.
Rivera, Apr. 29, 1999, conversation Also see Karl W. Butzer, et al., "Irrigation Agrosystems in
Eastern Spain: Roman or Islamic Origms?" Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 75
(Dec., 1985), 481.
7 National Park Service, Proposed San Antonio Missions National Hstorical Park: Alternatives for
Implementation (Santa Fe: Southwest Regional Office, 1975).
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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/m1/459/: accessed October 17, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.