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Home | Tag Archives: El Paso water

Tag Archives: El Paso water

EPWater’s Navarrete reflects upon UTEP honor

The long nights of studying and solving grueling accounting problems are long behind El Paso Water’s Marcela Navarrete, but the lessons from her days as a UTEP student endure.

The Vice President of Strategic, Financial and Management Services was recently recognized as one of the university’s esteemed Gold Nugget Award recipients, which is awarded to alumni who have made exceptional contributions to their professions and community.

Honored by the University of Texas at El Paso as a female pioneer in her field, Navarrete was also named a Woman of Impact by El Paso Inc. in 2016.

“UTEP prepared me to meet challenges,” Navarrete said. “With tons of homework as an accounting student, you have to manage your time well and really be dedicated. You learn what hard work is really about.”

As a young accountant, Navarrete eventually landed an entry-level job at EPWater after previous stints at a local Certified Public Accounting firm and the City of El Paso.

“When I started working at El Paso Water, I just felt like I found home,” Navarrete said.

Once there, she never looked back. Navarrete flourished in her profession and climbed the ranks after taking on major projects at the utility.

“When opportunities come, you have to take them,” Navarrete said. “What’s the worst that can happen? You fail, but you have learned, and you have tried. It’s a lot of stress and responsibility, but if you don’t take that on you don’t grow.”

The successful VP never expected to stay in a single workplace 20-plus years, acknowledging she is grateful for the capabilities gained and the friendships she has made.

“I was really blessed to have bosses that believed in me, bosses that gave me opportunities to take on special projects to really prove myself,” she said. “They gave me the opportunities to advance. Not only were they supportive in giving me the opportunities, but they also challenged me.”

Navarrete is proudest of the work the utility does for the community and savors having a part in its success. Growing her skills at EPWater led to a very successful career.

“Any success is a team effort, and I wouldn’t be where I am without my team here at work and my team at home,” Navarrete said. “I think my Gold Nugget award is recognition for anyone who has been a part of my life and career.”

EP Water’s ‘Willie’ to make a splash in new educational videos

You know those videos kids love to watch over and over?  Now, El Paso Water’s Willie the Water Drop is headed to a screen near you, urging preschoolers to use water wisely at home.

The short videos will feature Willie engaging with April Lopez, Water Conservation Specialist, immersing young viewers in conservation lessons, with plenty of positive reinforcement thrown in for good measure.

“This project was part of an effort to make Willie’s lessons more accessible to everyone,” said Lopez, adding the project was a longtime goal. “With the pandemic, we decided now is the time to provide virtual learning experiences remotely.”

Shows such as Nickelodeon’s popular “Blue’s Clues” and Dora the Explorer” inspired the TecH2O Learning Center team to sample techniques encouraging young viewers to play along.

Ultimately, the TecH2O team hopes the videos catch on with preschoolers, so much so that they can’t wait to watch them over and over.

The videos are similar to the interactive presentations the TecH2O team usually gives at schools and daycare centers around El Paso. The videos will be a great additional educational tool for teachers’ shelves, said Anai Padilla, Water Conservation/TecH2O Manager.

Willie fans may also find additional educational resources and activities on the TecH2O website, including a seek-and-find and Willie’s Conservation Bingo, Padilla said.

“El Paso Water values education and outreach as an important part of our successful conservation program,” said Christina Montoya-Halter, Marketing and Communications Manager. “We are hoping these videos give kids a way to interact with Willie and expose them to our water resources and conservation messages from the comfort of their own home.”

Team members want to showcase Willie in all his water drop glory, reinforcing and ingraining positive water-use habits. The video will feature a playful, talking Willie, urging young viewers to learn about water conservation and sing along with him, pledging not to waste water.

Videos offer lessons on El Paso’s water resources, the monsoon season and adopting healthy habits, such as drinking eight glasses of water daily – all led by Lopez and the utility’s beloved “face” of conservation.

“What I hope we accomplish is that Willie becomes very well-known and that we build lifelong water conservation habits,” Lopez said.

The videos also offer a bonus opportunity to introduce Willie to EPWater’s large workforce, as well as to customers who may not be familiar with the utility’s ice cream-obsessed mascot. Willie received a costume makeover two years ago, resulting in a lighter and more comfortable inflatable costume.

The mascot has come a long way from his early days as “Willie Water Waster,” learning many valuable lessons about conservation along the way.

The pandemic may have temporarily shelved field trips and signature events, but that hasn’t stopped the TecH2O staff from brainstorming new educational outreach methods.

“This time is giving us an opportunity to grow in other ways,” Lopez said. “We are able to focus on bigger projects.”

“I think that’s the most important thing our team gained: how diverse we became in all aspects, in the way we work, the way we rely on each other, the way we accomplish goals.”

The short videos will feature Willie the Waterdrop engaging with April Lopez, Water Conservation Specialist. | Photo courtesy EP Water

Video+Story: El Paso Water provides update on unique challenges of Sunset Heights project

What do you do when you’re caught between a rock and a hard place? If you’re El Paso Water, you hire a geologist and use specialized impact and vibration-monitoring equipment.

The Upson Drive Main Improvement Project will remove and replace the existing water and wastewater mains and service lines within the Sunset Heights Historic District. Many of the pipes in this area are more than 50 years old.

Removing and replacing over 4,000 feet of water piping and over 2,000 feet of wastewater piping is quite the undertaking. But the nature of the ground in this area presented engineers with a major obstacle.

“One of the challenges with this project is to maintain service for the residents during the construction,” said Luis Guerrero, project engineer with CEA Group, the firm awarded the contract.

“The other challenge is excavating through solid bedrock material, which we believe to be andesite/igneous rock.”

To reach the required depths to lay down the new piping, the contractor must use special impact equipment that breaks through the rocky ground. In order to monitor and mitigate the impact, vibration monitoring equipment is being utilized within the neighborhood .

According to Utility Engineer Francisco Martinez, the vibration monitoring warns the contractor if they reach a level that may cause damage.

When this happens, the contractor has to stop and use other methods of excavation, which may include using smaller equipment and/or chemicals that expand and break up rock.

“Talking to residents of the community, I get the sense that they are glad the infrastructure improvements are being made,” Martinez said. “They just wanted information about the schedule and timeline and to know when the construction would occur in front of their particular houses.”

As part of its standard construction outreach program, EPWater shared the information ahead of time with the neighborhood. Information was shared via bilingual door hangers at each house within the boundaries of the project, through the Sunset Heights NextDoor neighborhood hub, and with the neighborhood association and City Council Representative who also lives in the area.

Utility officials say that the construction, which started in mid-June, is anticipated to be completed in 10 months.  They add that the completed project will improve the reliability of the system in the neighborhood.

Triple digit temps contribute to water challenges for EPWater

While the current heat wave has many running for shade and drinking as much water as possible, some residents have raised concerns about the quality of the water reaching their taps

According to EP Water officials, some customers have recently reached out to them with concerns about their water having a musty taste and odor.

Chief Technical Officer Gilbert Trejo says a combination of hot temperatures and low levels in the Elephant Butte Lake reservoir, which feeds into the Rio Grande, is to blame – creating the perfect atmosphere for algae to grow.

“Switching between water sources like we do in El Paso is something that is unique across the country,” Trejo said. “And it’s complicated. Our operators have to use several tools to make sure the water delivered to your house is safe.”

Officials say that El Paso is fortunate to have two underground aquifers that supply much of the water for our community. In its early years, the city relied exclusively on these aquifers. However, city leadership quickly realized that pumping them exclusively could eventually deplete the groundwater supply.

That all changed in 1943, when the W.E. Robertson Water Treatment Plant was completed to treat Rio Grande water to drinking water standards during the irrigation season, typically March through September.

In a non-drought year, El Paso receives 50% of its water supply from the Rio Grande.  And that’s when customers begin to notice.

“This causes a distinctly different taste and odor to develop in El Paso’s water derived from the Rio Grande,” said Angel Bustamante, Water Systems Division Manager. “This problem is normally very short lived. Activated carbon is used at the water treatment plants to absorb these algae -related tastes and odors. In an effort to combat the recent mustiness, we have started to add powdered activated carbon as well. But even if the musty smell and taste are apparent, the water is safe to drink.”

Despite the challenges switching water sources creates, especially in the desert heat, Trejo says El Paso benefits from the diversification of water supplies.

“Use of river water is tremendously beneficial,” he said. “It enables us to preserve our aquifers, giving us sustainability for our community for decades to come.”

Those customers who have questions about their water can call the Water Quality line at 915-594-5733.

Photo courtesy EP Water

EP Water Support staff adapts amid pandemic

With the Coronavirus pandemic continuing to impact lives and livelyhoods, the majority of El Paso Water employees continue to work to provide essential water, wastewater and stormwater services.

Several employees were featured through the utility’s “Working for You” social media campaign. The posts reminded the community that the work for employees at the plants and in the field didn’t stop, and the posts encouraged the community to stay home.

However, many of the utility’s employees perform services that are mostly unseen by the public, and all have had to adapt and innovate to continue to support field and plant operations and keep the utility functioning.

“To keep our employees safe while continuing to provide service, coordination, communication and technology were key,” said Lidia Carranco, Fiscal Operations Manager.

“We needed constant communication between accounts payable, accounts receivable, grants, capital improvement projects, and benefits. It was hard, but we made it happen. Vendors and employees got paid and funds were available for projects.”

EP Water officials share that the IT team worked overtime early to equip more than 100 employees to work from home and to make sure many employees had speaker and camera features on computers to have virtual meetings.

Human Resources had to shift job candidate interviews from in-person to online platforms. Meter Repair and Testing adopted new protocols for customer interactions, requiring masks and social distancing. Accounting had to set up protocols to pick up paperwork from the office for scanning at home to enable digital processing.

According to Diana Ortega, Utility Purchasing and Contract Manager, one standard process requiring a complete change was the way EPWater hosts bid openings.

When various companies competed to perform work needed by the utility, the utility had an in-person bid opening process.

“We are now broadcasting them live with a link posted on our website,” Ortega said. “The outcome has been successful. These changes may be implemented permanently moving forward. With uncertainty of how long this crisis will last, it is good to know these changes can help us continue business while reducing exposure.”

In Customer Service, the new way of interacting with customers has also resulted in a more paperless utility and a reduction call wait times.

When the Customer Service Center closed to the public, an uptick in calls was expected. Yet, according to Juan Cervantes, Business and Customer Service Assistant Manager, the call volume remained the same, but the call duration and wait times decreased significantly.

“It could be a combination of staff availability due to lower turnover and fewer leave requests combined with simpler call complexity since we don’t have cutoffs at the moment,” Cervantes said.

“But the whole team has done a great job adjusting with everything going on. I’m really proud of the job they’ve done and how positive everyone has remained as a whole, regardless of the challenges.”

Video+Story: Earthquake damage leads to rapid rehab of EPWater reservoir

A restoration of the Sunset Heights Pump Station and Reservoir was already part of El Paso Water’s capital improvement plan. After all, the facility built in the early 1920s is one of El Paso Water’s oldest structures.

But then the earthquake happened.

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, a 5.0 magnitude earthquake shook near the town of Mentone, Texas on March 26 at approximately 9:16 a.m. MST.

Even though it was about 175 miles away and three miles below the surface, it was felt by many El Pasoans. And it was felt by one of the two 100-year-old reservoirs.

“The reservoir started leaking,” said Trades Helper Christopher Aguilar, who was one of the many EPWater employees who responded to the scene. “It started leaking at the bottom, at the base of the mountain where the reservoir structure meets the ground.”

After the reservoir was drained and fully cleaned to inspect the damage, it was quickly evident the improvement project would need to be expanded due to extensive damage to the reservoir, much of which was due to age and predated the earthquake.

On May 13, the Public Service Board approved a $7 million emergency rehabilitation project that will include completely lining the structure with a high-strength polymer concrete, reinforcing the structural beams, replacing the yard piping inside the tank as well as some of the inoperable valves.

“The liner that will be used is carbon-reinforced concrete that exceeds 10,000 pounds per square inch (psi),” said Chief Technical Officer Gilbert Trejo. “By comparison, the concrete that is used for building foundations and interstate highways is about 4000-5000 psi. This polymer concrete will allow us to have a stronger structure than if we built a new one.”

Alan Shubert, Vice President for Operations and Technical Services says the project allows EPWater to maintain service to the area while maintaining the historical significance of the site.

“It’s an installation that is completely surrounded by development, so it’s not an option to tear it down and build something new,” he said. “Plus, this is a historic structure in a historic building. The last thing we want to do is destroy part of El Paso’s history.”

Construction is expected to begin this summer. Because the other reservoir is operational, water service in the area will continue with limited interruptions.

Sunset Reservoir | Photo courtesy EP Water

EP Water rolls out ‘Water Smarter’ campaign

For nearly 30 years, El Pasoans have been doing their part to conserve the most precious resource in the Chihuahuan Desert, now El Paso Water expands the successful water conservation program.

As part of the new Water Smarter campaign, El Paso Water is encouraging customers to water smarter as warmer temperatures arrive. The campaign aims to empower customers with tips to save water around their homes while also saving money on their monthly water bills.

“Because of our successful campaign and educational programs, El Pasoans have embraced conservation,” said Anai Padilla, Water Conservation Manager. “However, it is always a good idea to remind our customers that we live in a desert and water is our most valuable resource.”

As temperatures climb, El Pasoans start preparing their gardens for the spring, and warmer temperatures increase the demand for water.

April marks the beginning of the time-of-day watering schedule, which allows residents to water their landscapes up to three times a week before 10 a.m. or after 6 p.m. Officials say that following this schedule reduces water loss from evaporation.

Even-numbered addresses may water Tuesdays, Thursdays or Saturdays. Odd-numbered addresses may water Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays. No residential watering is allowed Mondays.

In addition to the watering guidelines, planting and maintaining water-friendly plants is key.

“Take a look around El Paso, and it’s evident that water conservation is a way of life,” EP Water officials shared. “Shady, colorful desert plants dot landscapes across the city, where large, water-wasting lawns are no longer the standard.”

Small changes have a huge impact when transforming your garden into a water-efficient desert landscape. Local nurseries, as opposed to big chain stores, specialize in native plants, Padilla said.

Padilla suggested the following tips:

  • Select plants adapted to El Paso’s climate and know your soil type.
  • Water shrubs using drip irrigation, where possible.
  • Use mulches to eliminate water loss through evaporation.

In addition to conservation, re-use of household water is another way to save, Padilla offered a few simple tips.

“Use cooled water after cooking pasta or leftover ice cubes to water your plants,” she said. “Also, replace plumbing fixtures with those that are stamped with the WaterSense logo, similar to ENERGY STAR for energy efficiency.”

As part of the campaign, EPWater invites customers to join the movement and show us how they are watering smarter.

Please share your photos with us, demonstrating how you are doing your part to conserve water. Use the hashtag #WaterSmarterEP so we can follow along on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter. Participants may be eligible to receive promotional materials.

For more information on how to water smarter both indoors and outdoors, visit EP Water’s conservation page.

To learn more about desert-friendly plants, visit www.elpasodesertblooms.org, EPWater’s interactive site that offers many ideas to create a beautiful, water-efficient garden in the Chihuahuan Desert.

El Paso Water awarded $2.05m grant to expand Hutchison Desalination Plant

Wednesday afternoon, Texas Governor Greg Abbot announced $14.1 million in grants to Texas military communities, with El Paso and El Paso Water landing a portion of the grant money.

El Paso Water officials say they are the beneficiary of $2.05 million for the expansion of El Paso Water’s Kay Bailey Hutchison Desalination Plant.

When he made the announcement, Governor Abbott stated that “now more than ever  this support is critical as military installations in Texas add $101 billion to the state’s economy and support, directly and indirectly, more than 224,000 jobs in communities across this great state.”

“El Paso Water and the Fort Bliss Public Works Directorate have collaborated to develop a set of joint priorities to improve water and mission resiliency,” said John Balliew, EPWater President and CEO. “The KBH Plant expansion is the number one priority identified that will benefit both Fort Bliss and the City of El Paso. We thank Fort Bliss and the City of El Paso for collaborating with us on this grant application.”

Utility officials released the following statement:

El Paso Water is pleased with the Governor’s announcement today that El Paso Water has been awarded $2.05 million toward expansion of the Kay Bailey Hutchison Desalination (KBH) Plant.

Along with the $2.05 awarded from the Bureau of Reclamation, the grant will double the utility’s investment of $4.1 million to help with the Blend Well Collector Pipeline Project, which is the first step in the two-part expansion of KBH.

The $8.2 million project will enable construction of a pipeline to deliver source water that is approximately 7 miles away into the KBH plant. The second phase of the expansion will be the addition of a fifth reverse osmosis skid.

When both parts of the expansion are complete, KBH will have a production capacity of 33.5 million gallons (MGD) per day. Its current capacity is 27.5 MGD.

The grant award was announced Wednesday by Governor Greg Abbott. El Paso is one of six Texas military communities selected to receive Defense Economic Adjustment Assistant Grant  (DEAAG) from the Texas Military Preparedness Commission (TMPC).

Texan by Nature Announces 2020 Conservation Wranglers; Paso del Norte Trail honored

On Wednesday morning, officials with Texan by Nature (TxN), a Texas-led conservation non-profit, announced the selection of the 2020 Conservation Wranglers – including the new Paso del Norte Trail in El Paso.

“Every year, Texan by Nature shines a light on conservation stewards and their efforts to take care of the state I’m proud to call home,” shared former First Lady and Founder of Texan by Nature, Mrs. Laura Bush. “The Conservation Wrangler program proves that collaborative partnerships in conservation yield great benefits for Texas and its people. Congratulations to the six 2020 Conservation Wranglers and thank you for the terrific example you’ve set for the rest of us.”

The organization’s Conservation Wrangler program recognizes six innovative conservation projects across the state of Texas for their science-based and results driven approach to conservation along with their ability to positively impact people, prosperity, and natural resources.

The 2020 Conservation Wranglers will work with the Texan by Nature team, receiving 12-18 months of dedicated program support and tailored resources.

“Representing every corner of Texas, the pool of Conservation Wrangler applications this year was beyond impressive,” said Joni Carswell, CEO and President of TxN. “It is through invaluable conservation initiatives like these that our Conservation Wrangler program creates measurable and meaningful impact. While 2020 is vastly different than we imagined even a month ago, our work continues as we are inspired by our Conservation Partners, these projects, and the need for nature as a fundamental piece of our health. We look forward to sharing Conservation Wrangler learnings, best practices, and opportunities to scale conservation efforts in even BIGGER and BOLDER ways in 2020 and beyond.”

Texan by Nature will recognize the 2020 Conservation Wranglers on October 27, 2020, in Dallas at the George W. Bush Presidential Center.

This diverse set of projects impacts land, water, habitat, and more, spanning all 254 counties and all 12 ecological regions of the Lone Star State.

The six selected 2020 Conservation Wranglers include:

Paso del Norte Trail

Accessible trails connect people to nature, positively affecting their health and promoting a conservation mindset. The Paso del Norte Trail will provide greater opportunities for walking, hiking, and biking for users of all abilities to connect in the ecologically and culturally diverse border region of Texas.

This project is a community-driven, collaborative effort to develop a county-wide trail in El Paso County. The goal of Paso del Norte is to create a regionally significant landmark that promotes active transportation, preserves the history and culture of the region, highlights the Rio Grande river, supports economic development and ecotourism, provides educational and volunteer opportunities, and makes healthy living the easy choice for the unique, binational community of El Paso.

The roughly 68–mile span of the Paso del Norte (PDN) Trail is divided into five distinct districts, each broadly defined by their unique geographical, historical, and cultural context, as well as various amenities and attractions that help define them.

Partners for this project include the Paso del Norte Health Foundation, City of El Paso, County of El Paso, El Paso County Water Improvement District #1, El Paso Water, Creosote Collaborative, Sites Southwest, and Alta Planning & Design.

Respect Big Bend

Energy development in Far West Texas is accelerating. All forms of energy – oil, gas, wind and solar alike – are central to the Texas economy. To balance energy development with the need to conserve West Texas’ unique cultural and natural resources, the Respect Big Bend (RBB) Coalition was formed to bring together government, business, philanthropy, communities, landowners, and industry leaders in a regional planning process focused on responsible energy development. The Coalition was established with primary support from the Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation and additional support from the Permian Basin Area Foundation, Meadows Foundation, and Still Water Foundation. Coalition partners include: Borderlands Research Institute at Sul Ross State University, Texas Agricultural Land Trust, The Nature Conservancy, and the Bureau of Economic Geology at UT – Austin, and several others. The goals of RBB are to educate, inform, and provide resources to all stakeholders, develop a robust conservation plan, and garner support and acceptance of the plan.

Trinity Park Conservancy – Trinity River Conservation Corps

The Trinity River is the longest fully-contained river in the state of Texas, flowing through 18,000 square miles of watershed and five major ecoregions, supplying tens of millions of Texans with a reliable water source. Trinity Park Conservancy and Groundwork Dallas have partnered to develop a youth employment program focused on the stewardship of the Trinity River: Trinity River Conservation Corps.

The Corps program aims to enhance conservation efforts along the Trinity River Corridor, while providing education, service, and leadership opportunities to the next generation, with a focus on engaging youth from historically marginalized areas. The Corps will focus on projects such as stewardship of wetlands along the Trinity River that serve to mitigate flooding, along with projects in Harold Simmons Park, the Elm Fork, and the Great Trinity Forest.

Engagement of the community, business, and conservation partners through the Corps will help to develop a cultural model of stewardship throughout the Trinity River Corridor.

Texas Brigades

As families become more urban and less connected to our natural resources, conservation organizations must evolve and adapt to ensure they connect with younger generations on critical conservation issues. With a vision of creating “conservation leaders in every community,” Texas Brigades educates and empowers youth with leadership skills and knowledge in wildlife, fisheries, and land stewardship to become conservation ambassadors for a sustained natural resource legacy.

As Texas Brigades prepare to build on their legacy and plan for the future, organizational leadership is working on strategic planning, volunteer stewardship, and long-term data collection to ensure their programs meet the needs of Texas’s changing demographics.

Texas Brigades molds over 300 youth leaders each year with their Summer Camps and other programs, where participants have come from over 1,000 communities across Texas. Participants leave with a connection to the land, informed and ready to make conservation a life-long passion.

Exploration Green Conservancy

Every year, the Texas Gulf Coast is faced with damaging storm systems, costing Texas communities billions of dollars in repairs. Once completed, Exploration Green will provide stormwater detention for 500 million gallons of water, protecting over 2,000 nearby homes from seasonal flooding.

Exploration Green is a recreation area and nature preserve housed in a stormwater detention area in southeast Houston. This once defunct neighborhood golf course turned conservation area has plans to include native grasses, 5,000 native trees, 150,000 wetland plants, 40 acres of lakes, and six miles of high-quality trails for area residents.

Early phases of the project saved over 150 homes from flooding during Hurricane Harvey and completely mitigated flooding during 2019 Tropical Storm Imelda. In addition to stormwater relief, the conservation area improves water quality, provides carbon sequestration, and has doubled plant and bird diversity.

Exploration Green also brings in residents of all ages and economic status to utilize trails and attend weekly community events. The project is led by two primary partners, Clear Lake City Water Authority and Exploration Green Conservancy, and is supported by 30 additional partners from local businesses to conservation organizations.

Exploration Green is embraced by the community with over 800 volunteers helping the project.

Texas Children in Nature

Children who spend time in nature are healthier, happier and smarter. In 2010 the Texas Children in Nature Network (TCiN) was created to address the growing concern of the lack of nature in children’s lives. TCiN achieves its mission of connecting children with nature through regional collaboratives across the state – working with over 500 local and state partners in the health, education, community development and conservation fields.

TCiN serves as a statewide networking hub, participating in various statewide leadership teams, providing resources to encourage children and families to spend time in nature, and addressing pressing issues such as equity and access to the outdoors, community development and public health policy.

In 2020 TCiN will be celebrating its 10thanniversary with a statewide summit in December – Inspiring the Next Ten Years, during which TCiN will also be unveiling a new strategic plan.

The Texan by Nature 2020 Conservation Wranglers were selected, in part, based on the following criteria:

  • Texan-led conservation initiative
  • Benefits community by providing tangible returns for people, prosperity, and natural resources
  • Reaches new and diverse audiences
  • Science-based
  • Measurable process and conservation outcomes
  • Partnership between community, business, individuals, and conservation organizations

All will receive 12-18 months of tailored support and resources including:

  • Connections to technical expertise and industry support
  • Recognition and participation in annual Conservation Wrangler Summit and Celebration
  • Strategic planning, program evaluation, and assistance with stakeholder engagement
  • Amplification and marketing support for each individual initiative
  • Professional produced content and collateral cross-promotion via TxN channels including social media, newsletters, and website

Collective 2019 Texan by Nature Conservation Wrangler Program Highlights:

  • People: TxN CW Projects impacted Texans across 54 counties (total of 111 since 2018)
  • Prosperity: $163.7 million in economic benefit
  • Natural Resources (Acreage): 14.6 million acres =8.5% of Texas’s 171.9 million acres
  • Natural Resources (Other): 1.2 million gallons of water conserved (El Paso Water), 4.5 million ducks (TPWP), 130 miles of contiguous river trail (Trinity Coalition), 240,000 Red Snapper (RGV Reef), 2,000ft of linear shoreline (Oyster Recycling), at least 450+ grassland bird species (GRIP)

Last year’s Conservation Wranglers included the El Paso Water – Certified Water Partner ProgramGalveston Bay Foundation – Oyster Shell RecyclingFriends of Rio Grande Valley ReefOaks and Prairies Joint Venture – Grassland Restoration Incentive ProgramDucks Unlimited – Texas Prairie Wetlands Project, and the Trinity Coalition – Trinity River Paddling Trail.

Increasing conservation investment across Texas and working to drive and replicate innovation, Texan by Nature connects conservation partners to the resources they need to achieve greater impact. For more information on TxN partnerships and programs, or to learn how to get involved, please visit www.texanbynature.org.

EPWater discovers multiple instances of meter tampering, illegal water connections

During the last few weeks, El Paso Water has discovered multiple instances of meter tampering and illegal water connections.

Using water without an active water service is against the law and may be grounds for disconnection and penalty.

“EPWater would like to emphasize that in accordance with the city emergency order issued on March 13, 2020 and to protect the health and safety of the community, it has suspended disconnections due to non-payment,” water company officials shared via a news release.

“Unlawful activity, however, continues to be grounds for disconnection,” officials added.

Officials urge customers with inactive accounts, or those that have been shutoff prior to this order, to contact Customer Service at 915-594-5500 or (customer.service@epwater.org)to make arrangements to have service restored; however, such arrangements may require a good faith deposit.

All customers will continue to be responsible for the full bill amount accrued.

“We will work with customers on payment plans or other arrangements,” officials said.  “EPWater is committed to ensuring customers have access to clean, reliable water during this unprecedented time.”

EPWater: Help protect our ‘microscopic workforce’

According to El Paso Water, some of hardest working members of their treatment facilities are in danger, due to the excessive flushing of sanitary wipes and chemicals.

“There are some very hard workers at El Paso Water wastewater plants. They work without pay and without breaks. And they work their entire lives; no retirement for them,” EP Water officials share. “They are the beneficial bacteria that live in the live ecosystem of the aerator basins, helping to break down the waste in wastewater.”

The human employees of El Paso Water monitor the well-being of these microscopic creatures daily to ensure they remain active and healthy because they play an important role in the wastewater treatment process.

The bacteria consume viruses and pathogens, helping to clean wastewater to a level that is safe for release into the Rio Grande or to reclaim and use again at power plants, golf courses, parks or construction sites.

However, at least one facility in Colorado has experienced a very sudden loss of beneficial bacteria, possibly as a result of chemical toxicity in the wastewater that is attributable to increased use of sanitation wipes and chemicals.

With the concerns of Coronavirus (COVID-19), there has been a surge in use of these products to disinfect homes and businesses.

While this is a prudent thing to do to maintain a healthy and safe home and business, improper disposal by flushing those wipes and chemicals is creating concern at wastewater facilities nationwide.

“At this point, we are monitoring our wastewater treatment plants for any adverse effects to the biological process,” said Chief Technical Officer Gilbert Trejo. “This shows how our staff is thinking of everything during these difficult times to keep producing clean water. We do urge the public to please not send any kind of wipe, chemical or medicines down the drains.”

Paul Rivas, Chief Operations Officer for Production and Treatment, couldn’t agree more.

“That’s why we partner with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency Drug Take Back Day and we promote using the Citizen Collection Stations,” Rivas said. “I can’t stress it enough; we need to keep trash, medicines, bleach wipes, hand sanitizers and other chemical cleaners out of the system to protect the system and ultimately, the environment.”

To find out the locations and hours of the Citizen Collection Stations, click here or call 3-1-1.

Rep. Hurd helps get $1m grant awarded to El Paso County Water Improvement District 1

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation within the U.S. Department of Interior (DOI) announced that El Paso County Water Improvement District 1 will receive a $1 million grant for fiscal year 2020 as part of DOI’s WaterSMART program.

The program focuses on improving water conservation and helping water-resource managers identifying strategies to ensure sufficient supplies of clean water.

The grant funding will allow El Paso County Water Improvement District 1 to install a concrete lining in a section of the Ysla Latera Canal to conserve water that is currently lost to seepage.

It will also facilitate the expansion of an undersized bridge located next to Salvador Sanchez Middle School in Socorro, resulting in a safer walkway for students and other pedestrians.

For his part, U.S. Representative Will Hurd penned a letter of support to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation advocating the impact the grant would have in managing water sources to meet the significant growing water demands on the El Paso region.

“Because of its arid climate, the El Paso region only receives an average rainfall of about 8 inches each year presenting challenges for local leaders when it comes to water management,” said Hurd who represents a portion of El Paso County including Soccoro.

“I’m proud of the Water Improvement District and their continued efforts to better the economic prosperity of the City of Socorro and provide sufficient services to their residents. It’s essential that we ensure future generations will have ample clean water sources for drinking, economic activities, recreation and an overall healthy ecosystem.”

Female engineers climb leadership ranks at EP Water

With six female engineers at the helm of EP Water, diversity in leadership for women in the water sector can be described as a rising tide at the utility.

Irazema Rojas, Capital Improvement Program Manager, and Aide Fuentes, Wastewater Treatment Manager, are happy to welcome new engineers entering the fold at EPWater.  Rojas and Fuentes are only two of the six female engineers in leadership roles at the utility.

  • Water Production Manager Veronica Galindo
  • Engineering Division Manager Amy Castner for Water/Wastewater Engineering
  • Engineering Division Manager Adriana Castillo for Planning and Development
  • Engineering Division Manager Gisela Dagnino for Stormwater Engineering

All play an important role in the design and maintenance of EPWater’s water and wastewater systems and policy-making.

At EPWater, both Fuentes and Rojas found that stepping outside their initial job descriptions altered their career paths significantly.

Fuentes has been promoted in management twice at EPWater, first as Water Production Manager to her current role as Wastewater Treatment Manager. In her career, every day has been different, with not a dull moment in sight.

“It’s been fun,” Fuentes said. “I have seen construction, design, how we operate wells on the production side, how water distribution works and now I am getting to see the wastewater side.”

“I have had to be flexible – big time – and open to learning,” said Rojas, who rose from early ranks as an engineering co-op to becoming the highest ranked female engineer at EPWater. Rojas has held varied positions in management at EPWater, including Reclaimed Water Manager, Environmental Compliance Manager and her current position as Capital Improvement Manager.

Fuentes and Rojas are grateful for many opportunities and have relished each role at EPWater, including their current ones. They both concede they still have a lot to learn.

“As Wastewater Treatment Manager, I get to work with wastewater plants that are alive,” said Fuentes, adding she has enjoyed working with a variety of employees – from trades helper to engineers. “Seeing superintendents tweak their plants when troubleshooting and then seeing how the plant reacts in five to seven days has been interesting.”

“I have been part of changes in management, and I am very excited about the emphasis senior leaders are putting on safety; on knowledge, skills and abilities; as well as supporting employees to further their careers through education,” said Rojas, who has discovered through her many leadership roles that she is a numbers and people person. “It’s something that makes me proud to be part of this current management team.”

Both have similar advice for female engineers looking to make their mark at EPWater.

“Have fun,” Fuentes said. “If you are flexible and enjoy what you do, you will advance.”

“Life is full of surprises, and you never know what’s in store,” Rojas said. “I am taking opportunities as they come. You just have to be able to take chances.”

EPWater goes to great depths in Montana Vista project

When residents, elected officials and the leadership of El Paso Water decided to try to bring first-time wastewater service to Montana Vista, they knew it would be a tall order.

The colonia in far east El Paso had for decades relied on septic tanks.

Bringing the precious wastewater infrastructure to their neighborhood required thousands of resident signatures, a sanctioned health study, advocacy from local and state elected officials and $12.9 million in financial assistance from the Texas Water Development Board’s (TWDB) Economically Distressed Area Program (EDAP).

A tall order indeed. But now that the vision is a reality and construction is underway, it’s very evident that the project is also a deep order. Because a wastewater system is typically gravity-based, that gravity flow had to be designed.

To achieve the necessary four-degree slope, the deepest manholes at the bottom of the system are a whopping 30 feet deep.

“This depth makes it very difficult to install the manholes without affecting other utilities, street paving, and accessibility for the residents and emergency services,” said Sergio Adame, an engineer with Brock & Bustillos, the firm that designed the project.

Photo courtesy EPWater

“It’s also a slow process. But once we install the deeper manholes, production will speed up as we move up higher and higher toward the street level.”

Not starting at the proper level could lead to not having the needed inclination to have the gravity-based wastewater line. The depth of the low-point manholes also allows for a system without lift stations to pump the wastewater, maximizing the TWDB funds.

Irazema Rojas, Capital Improvement Program Manager, says that although the utility is proud of the technical and logistical aspects of the project, she is most proud of EPWater’s outreach efforts to the community.

“One of the rewarding things about our engineering field is that we can make lives better,” Rojas said. “Through everyone’s efforts, including our community partners, we are now delivering this very necessary service. I got to meet many of the residents and receive hugs and numerous thank-yous for bringing the service to their community. It’s very moving.”

Photo courtesy EPWater

 

Video+Story: Eastside stormwater project underway

Residents along Sam Snead Drive in El Paso are looking forward to improved flood control as El Paso Water overhauls the stormwater system in the Pico Norte area.

According to EP Water officials, during rain events, many of El Paso’s streets are designed to carry storm flows to stormwater ponds and pipes, which is the case for Sam Snead Drive.

“However, Sam Snead collects storm flows from the larger surrounding area, and sometimes the intensity causes streets to become inundated,” officials shared. “A 2014 rain event that dropped a significant amount of water in the area washed cars and trash bins into the Pico Norte Pond and illustrated the urgency for improvements. This event coupled with new evaluation data elevated the project to become one of the top stormwater priorities to increase public safety and protect homes and businesses in East El Paso.”

In Phase 1 of the improvements, $1.9 million was invested in excavating the Pico Norte Pond. Phase 2 will apply an additional $7.3 million to relocate Sam Snead’s stormwater system underground and increase its carrying capacity.

“Anyone who’s been around this neighborhood knows that the streets can flood when it rains,” said EPWater Project Manager Ryan Stubbs. “This project will move that water off the streets, into an underground tunnel and increase public safety for those who live and travel through here.”

A new 2,200-foot box culvert tunnel is being constructed under Sam Snead from the Pico Norte Pond to Lee Trevino Drive. Drop inlets will be installed in the center of the road to allow stormwater to drain from the street and into the underground system.

The tunnel will have the potential to send over 350,000 gallons per minute of stormwater to the Pico Norte Pond.

“The road right now is configured like a channel, so the water flows toward the center of the road,” said Mark Medina, project manager for Moreno Cardenas Inc. “That’s where all the inlets will capture the water, drain it out of the street, discharge it into the culvert and then into the pond.”

“The public will see some improvements in the center of the street with the inlets, but the majority of the work will be underground,” said Saul Trejo, construction manager for Moreno Cardenas Inc.

EPWater is planning for future stormwater improvements to the area. Designs are underway for another stormwater tunnel along Bywood Drive.

The Bywood tunnel will be able to send another 350,000 gallons per minute of stormwater underground to the pond.

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