The H2O4Texas coalition’s statewide tour comes to El Paso for its eighth regional Town Hall meeting this year to promote awareness and dialogue on regional water planning. The event is free and open to the public and is scheduled for Wednesday Oct. 26 at 9 a.m. at the Greater El Paso Chamber of Commerce.
The Far West Texas (Region E) water plan is one of 16 regional water plans developed as part of the state water planning process. The plan addresses the needs of all water user groups in the state – municipal, irrigation, manufacturing, livestock, mining, and electric power.
The event will feature a panel of El Paso leaders who are stakeholders in this region’s 50-year water plan, and the format encourages citizens to voice concerns and ask questions. Event speakers include Jesus (Chuy) Reyes, Region E Chair and General Manager of El Paso County Water Improvement District #1, El Paso Electric President and CEO Mary Kipp, State Senator Jose Rodriguez and El Paso Water President and CEO John Balliew among others.
According to the Texas Water Development Board, the population of El Paso and the Far West Texas region is expected to exceed 900K by 2020 and could rise to 1.5 million by 2070. Because Far West Texas water resources are shared with New Mexico and Mexico, it presents unique challenges in planning to meet water needs for population growth.
“With the river drought expected to continue, we need additional water sources to meet the demands of a growing population,” said El Paso Water (EPWater) President and CEO John Balliew. “The state water plan gives us a framework to work with our regional stakeholders and effectively plan for the future.”
With drought cycles, an arid climate and unpredictable Rio Grande flows, EPWater – the largest municipal water supplier in the region – had to first confront these challenges many years ago and shaped innovative programs that resulted in El Paso’s national leadership in conservation, reclamation and desalination. El Paso has reduced water consumption by more than 30 percent over the last 25 years.
For three decades, El Paso has been treating and reclaiming wastewater for irrigation, industrial and commercial uses as well as for aquifer replenishment. And in 2007, El Paso opened the Kay Bailey Hutchison Desalination Plant, the largest inland desalination plant in the world.
In the statewide water plan, which looks out to water requirements over a 50-year timespan, EPWater has proposed several new pioneering projects, to include expanding the desalination plant (from 27 million gallons per day to 42 million gallons per day) and introducing advanced water purification, a process that transforms highly treated wastewater into high quality drinking water – or purified water.
Eventually, EPWater also expects to import water from sources as far as 90 miles away.
While El Paso is by far the largest population center for the Region E water plan and El Paso Water is a singularly significant water supplier, Wednesday’s Town Hall conversation is expected to also encompass water planning for Hudspeth, Culberson, Jeff Davis, Presidio, Brewster and Terrell counties.