San Antonio city officials said road maintenance crews will begin fully using what they describe as a cool pavement product designed to better reflect sunlight during warm temperatures.

This is part of a larger effort to counter the effects of climate change and extreme heat, officials said.

The background

City Council on May 9 was briefed on the status of the city’s Resiliency, Energy Efficiency and Sustainability [REES] fund, and an initiative to reduce the urban heat island impacts, where urban inner-city areas experience higher temperatures than rural areas.

These and similar measures are contained in the SA Climate Ready plan, which guides local officials in their mission to achieve carbon neutrality, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and promote energy efficiency and environmental sustainability.

The urban heat island initiative involves implementation of various heat mitigation measures, such as green or ecofriendly infrastructure, shade structures, water features, energy efficiency and cool materials.

In spring and summer 2023, San Antonio Public Works crews launched a pilot project, applying four brands of cool pavement products to small parts of roadway in all 10 City Council districts to battle rising temperatures in select areas of town. The cool pavement products are water-based and feature additives to reflect solar radiation, which tends to accumulate in places where there is more roadways and concrete buildings, city officials said.

According to city representatives, one of the applied products, Seal Master SolarPave, had the most notable reductions in surface temperatures—3.58 degrees on average—compared with other sites.

Local officials also said that Seal Master produced the biggest surface temperature decrease—18 degrees—compared with fresh-laid asphalt. SealMaster also exhibited the best adhesion strength, supporting longevity on pavement surfaces.

City representatives said they will incorporate Seal Master into the citywide paving program for Fiscal Year 2024-2025 operations, with a focus on areas that experience higher temperatures, and have mostly low-income households, have aging streets, and a lack of walkability, tree canopies and mass transit opportunities.

According to the city’s research done in conjunction with the University of Texas at San Antonio's Sustainable Pervasive Urban Resilience (SPUR) Center, a majority of heat-vulnerable areas lie in older parts of San Antonio, inside Loop 410. But some spots with warming temperatures can be found around the San Antonio International Airport, and the South Texas Medical Center.

Take action

Elsewhere, city officials said they are accepting grant application for proposed projects, which if approved could receive REES funding.

The city is providing up to $20,000 in grants to eligible San Antonio neighborhood and community organizations, which propose such initiatives as bicycle commutes, community gardens and solar-powered projects. The deadline for grant applications here is May 20.

Additionally, the city has a separate $125,000 budget to help community-based organizations who seek to create or boost their grassroots campaign to engage the public on climate and social equity-related issues via workshops, special events or other means of communication. The grant application deadline here is May 31.

What they’re saying

Doug Melnick, the city’s chief sustainability officer, said summers are getting hotter and for longer periods of time, so the city government is doing what it can to help ensure the safety of local residents and combat the effects of extreme heat.

“Some parts of the city can get hotter than others, and certain residents are more vulnerable to the rising heat. It’s critical that we direct resources to those most in need of relief,” Melnick said in a statement.