Like many other countries in the world, Turkmenistan is currently experiencing significant growth in its urban areas. When planning for urban expansion it is important to take into consideration factors such as pollution, infrastructure, management of utilities, etc. For these reasons, SACIV welcomed not one, but two groups of visitors from Turkmenistan interested in learning about San Antonio’s long term urban planning methods. The visitor’s programs focused on the provision of vital services such as energy water, mass transportation, infrastructures & roads, and water.
In early June, SACIV welcomed four visitors attending a program titled “Urban Management”, and then welcomed another group of five visitors in late October, participating in the program “Water Usage”. During their visits, meetings were arranged with several organizations from each sector - energy, transportation, and water - to give our visitors a better understanding of how San Antonio tackles urban expansion. Meeting with representatives from City of San Antonio’s Center City Development Office and Alamo Area Metropolitan Planning Organization provided broad overviews about urban planning, while meetings with VIA specifically addressed San Antonio’s public transportation. CPS Energy shared conservation and allocation methods, and meetings with SAWS and Greater Edwards Aquifer Alliance tackled the issue of water usage.
In particular, water management, conservation, and allocation has remained a long term issues in Turkmenistan due to previous Soviet irrigation systems. While San Antonio has never suffered from this particular issue, Texas in general suffers from frequent droughts and like Turkmenistan, faces rapid urbanization. Meeting the demand for water as cities expand, forces suppliers to consider additional or alternative water sources. However, this shouldn’t be done at the expense of rural communities and wildlife that depend on natural springs and aquifers. This presents a challenge that both Texas and Turkmenistan share. Therefore, the exchange between the delegation and professionals that took place within the meetings provided invaluable insight to alternative practices that work to address these issues despite societal differences.
Many visitors in general, including the visitors from Turkmenistan are surprised to learn about the water usage fees implemented by SAWS. For many other countries water supply is free. Visitors from South Africa were also intrigued by this. While some visitors are pleasantly surprised to learn this, others express confusion and disapproval. These systematic and idyllic differences are often a result of the political and cultural context of the home country of the visitors. Differences aside, hosting the Turkmenistan visitors yielded exposure to diverse funding streams, introduction to the concept of non-profit organizations, and exposure to municipally-owned utilities.