El Paso Water received notice last week that it will be awarded $150,000 in funding from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation for developing a feasibility plan to increase its aquifer recharge efforts by six-fold.
The proposed plan will make El Paso’s water supply more resilient to drought and help preserve the Hueco Bolson for future generations.
Public Service Board Chair Henry Gallardo previewed EPWater’s expansion plan Friday as part of his keynote speech at the 7th Annual WateReuse Texas Conference, hosted here in El Paso this year. “By redirecting excess river water supplies to our Hueco Bolson aquifer in non-drought years, we can put additional water supplies in the ‘bank’ so that we can make necessary withdrawals during times of drought.”
Local aquifers serve as El Paso’s most dependable source of water, but long-term sustainability calls for limiting reliance on this source.
Water from the Rio Grande provides El Paso’s water source during the other half of the year but can be subject to drought conditions. During droughts, river water can be reduced from a six month supply to a mere weeks or few months. This requires an increase in aquifer pumping to meet water demands, placing heavy stress on the aquifers.
EPWater’s current aquifer recharge program began 30 years ago at the Fred Hervey Water Reclamation facility to help stabilize declining aquifer levels. Over the last 30 years, the utility has replenished the Hueco Bolson with over 26 billion gallons of wastewater that is transformed into drinking water at the Fred Hervey facility.
“In the coming decades, we will continue to face drought cycles, and some of those years may be severe with little or no river flow,” said El Paso Water President and CEO John Balliew. “The proposed strategy to increase aquifer recharge from 977 million gallons per year to 5.5 billion gallons per year could be a game-changer for the Hueco Bolson aquifer and for El Paso.”