Elephant Butte Dam | Photo courtesy EPWater

El Paso Water explains steps utility is taking to prepare for a drought season

Living and operating in the Chihuahuan Desert, the term drought is not unfamiliar to El Paso Water. Utility officials say they continuously plan to ensure customers have safe, reliable water during the hottest and driest months in our region.

“As we anticipate considerably less water from the Rio Grande this year, we want to remind our customers of our commitment to provide water to our community, and the measures we have taken to prepare for what is ahead,” EPWater officials shared.

In a plentiful river water season, the region gets about 50% of the water from the Rio Grande, however officials say this year the area will only see 10-15% of that allotment.

The amount of river water the area receives is contingent on levels in the Elephant Butte Reservoir, which is significantly low this year due to several years of average snowfall and limited runoff in northern New Mexico and southern Colorado.

“During times like these we take great pride in our diverse portfolio of water resources to deliver sustainable water services,” officials say.

“For decades, EPWater has implemented new and innovative ways to provide water to our desert community, and our customers have embraced a conservation culture that is an important part of our strategy.”

According to officials, when the Rio Grande is plentiful, they ease off pumping of the aquifers to preserve groundwater sources for a time when the river is in low supply.

Six additional wells were drilled in preparation for this river drought. | Photo courtesy EPWater

Last fall, the Public Service Board approved the drilling of six additional wells to prepare for this expected river drought.

The wells will provide an additional 7.5 million gallons of new groundwater to our daily supply. Officials add that they have also rehabilitated several aging wells to ensure our existing supply is not interrupted.

“Our peak water demand usually occurs in late May to early June when temperatures rise and the use of air conditioners and outdoor irrigation increase,” officials add. “We feel optimistic that even with a decreased river water supply we will be able to meet the daily peak demand with our additional groundwater resources.”

The Kay Bailey Hutchison Desalination Plant will also play a critical role in meeting the city’s water demands. The plant transforms otherwise unusable brackish groundwater into fresh drinking water and can supply up to 27.5 million gallons of water daily.

Several storage tanks and reservoirs have been built in strategic locations across the city over the last few years. Although these were constructed to deal with short-term weather extremes, they will help store water and move it to different areas when water may be in short supply.

“By using several different water sources rather than just one, we can provide a reliable water supply and continue to support our economic vitality,” utility officials said.

“We encourage our customers to make conscious and wise decisions about their water from late spring to early summer, especially outdoors.”

The time-of-day watering schedule permits three days of watering lawns, but officials ask that residents consider watering one or two days per week.

Avoid watering at the hottest time of the day, between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m., to avoid evaporation. Residents are also asked to check sprinklers for broken parts and consider drip irrigation.

“We can proudly say that water conservation has become a way of life in our community, and our customers’ efforts have made an impact,” officials said.

“We are not immune to drought, and that’s why our continuous investments and planning to expand our water resources pay off in times like these,” officials added.

“Conservation also plays a crucial role in those efforts, and we ask that you remain committed to water wise habits like you have been doing for the past 30 years.”