Collaboration by UTEP, El Paso Water Could Shape area Around Facilities near Rio Bosque Wetlands

Seven teams from the University of Texas at El Paso’s senior civil engineering students unveiled their visions for a Water Supply and Resource Recovery Campus.

The Campus would encompass the proposed Advanced Water Purification Facility along with hundreds of acres around current utility facilities to enable greater access to the Rio Bosque Wetlands and provide new public amenities.

Culminating a year’s worth of work, the teams competed against each other with proposals, which also served as their senior design projects.

Obed Cano and Alejandra Escajeda said their senior project was a fun and eye-opening experience that showed them how much work is required to put theory into practice.
Obed Cano and Alejandra Escajeda said their senior project was a fun and eye-opening experience that showed them how much work is required to put theory into practice.

El Paso Water and UTEP’s Civil Engineering Department collaborated on the project, tasking students with designing a “Water Campus” to include a water learning center, park infrastructure, access roads, stormwater management and other improvements that would also fully integrate the Jonathan Roberts Water Treatment Plant, the Roberto Bustamante Wastewater Treatment Plant and the proposed Advanced Water Purification Facility.

EPWater Chief Technical Officer Gilbert Trejo, who also served on the panel of volunteer judges, originated the idea of the “Water Campus. “We wanted to really challenge the students, and they rose to that challenge. I’m impressed by the level of sophistication in their proposals,” said Trejo.

The teams presented their original ideas to EPWater in May and received initial feedback. The students presented the final version of their design to volunteer judges on Friday. The panel of judges consisted of local professional engineers.

Each year, UTEP collaborates with a different local organization on the senior civil engineering project.

Professor Ivonne Santiago, PhD., provided oversight and mentoring for the project. She also serves on the Public Service Board and said El Paso Water was selected this year because she wanted students to understand how important water issues are in the region.

“We live in a desert; water is a precious commodity,” Santiago said. “I don’t want students to just learn about water (issues). I want them to become advocates.”

She said El Paso Water has performed impressive work around the city and has been forward thinking with its planning, including plotting out the city’s water needs for the next 50 years.

“Not every city does this,” she said.

Several of the students said the project was a great learning experience that taught them how to work together and about the challenges of putting theory into practice.

“It was a great opportunity. We were exposed to the work it takes for all the parts of the project,” said Alejandra Escajeda, a senior. “It showed how important teamwork is in engineering.”

Obed Cano, another senior, said it was eye-opening to see how much work and money goes into simple things like stormwater ponds. “I didn’t know these things could cost thousands of dollars,” Cano said. “It opened my perspective on what (water management) costs.”

Escajeda said she never realized how much hard work and innovative technology El Paso Water was applying each day behind the scenes.

Trejo said EPWater doesn’t have current plans to build a “Water Campus.” However, he said their contributions could be used to inform design decisions as the Utility moves forward with the Advanced Water Purification Facility. “The students produced some very high-quality proposals that give us a lot to think about,” Trejo said.

The winning team in each of three categories (best presentation, report and overall design) will be announced Thursday, December 8th at the senior banquet.

Author: Josh Moniz – El Paso Water