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Home | Tag Archives: El Paso water

Tag Archives: El Paso water

When the river stops, the maintenance begins

River water season has officially dried up for the year, kicking off the beginning of maintenance at El Paso Water’s two river water treatment plants.

The to-do list is a long one for employees at the Robertson/Umbenhauer – aka the Canal Plant – and the Jonathan Rogers water treatment plants. Draining and cleaning sand-choked basins, desilting, along with equipment inspections is the order of the season that begins once flows from the Elephant Butte Reservoir end.

“Maintenance is a vital part of the operation,” said Mike Parker, superintendent at the Rogers Plant. “This transition period keeps the employee engaged, and I truly believe that if employees know the reasons why we do maintenance, it makes them eager to do their best.”

According to Angel Bustamante, Water Systems Division Manager, EP Water crews take a proactive approach to the upkeep of plant.

“The utility really strives to make sure that we don’t just react to maintenance, we plan for it,” Bustamante said. “We don’t want to be caught in a bind when something goes wrong. We like redundancy.”

The season also signals the beginning of Capital Improvement Program projects, which have been carefully planned over the summer.

“These projects typically occur in the maintenance season because we can’t shut off the plant once we receive river water,” Bustamante said. “We schedule the work so contractors can do it during the non-irrigation season.”

Current projects include an update of ozone generators at the Rogers Plant, as well as a replacement of climber screens, structural improvements and an update of the Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) system at the Canal Plant, Bustamante said.

The plants still field plenty of tour requests from area engineering students, even during maintenance season.

“When basins are drained, you get a better idea of what mechanics are involved,” Bustamante said. “We welcome the public to tour our plants. I recommend they come when there is river water and when there isn’t, so they can get a perspective from both sides.”

For communities where rivers flow all year, plants don’t have the opportunity to shut down for maintenance.

“It’s fascinating that no other system actually shuts down,” Parker said. “At El Paso Water, we suspend our river water plants and start them back up like it’s a walk in the park. But that’s a big, complex thing to do, and we do it every year.”

PSB to hear proposed 2020 budgets, rates on December 2nd; Public invited

Officials with the Public Service Board recently announced that the El Paso Water Fiscal Year 2019-20 Stormwater and Water/Wastewater budget hearing will be held on Monday, December 2.

The meeting is open to the public, and public comment will be available at each meeting where staff will present budget priorities and drivers.

The community will hear about EPWater budget priorities, which include securing the water supply, rehabilitating facilities, expanding  systems due to city growth and continuing infrastructure improvements for flood control.

For those who can’t make the meetings in person, they will be streamed live, while recordings of the budget meetings will also air on City TV.

The next PSB meeting is scheduled for Dec. 11 at 8 a.m., which provides an opportunity for public comment on the budget and other items.

Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2020 at 8 a.m. – EPWater budgets considered for approval by PSB at the regular monthly Public Service Board meeting.

WHAT: El Paso Water’s governing body, the Public Service Board (PSB), will hold a public meeting, where staff will present EPWater’s Operating and Capital Budget for fiscal year 2020-2021, which begins March 1, 2020.

WHERE: El Paso Water Main Office, Board Room – 4 th floor 1154 Hawkins Boulevard

WHEN: Monday, Dec. 2 at 6 p.m. – Budget Hearing (Water/Wastewater/Stormwater)

El Paso Utilities unite to educate, empower customers to avoid scams

Thursday morning, officials with El Paso Electric (EPE), El Paso Water and Texas Gas Service teamed up to raise awareness and educate customers on scams through the fourth annual Utility Scam Awareness Week initiative.

First introduced by the Utilities United Against Scams, or UUAS, the week-long advocacy and awareness campaign focuses on educating customers of the tactics scammers use to steal their money.

“Working alongside El Paso Electric and El Paso Water allows us to raise awareness about scams. We want to make sure all of our customers receive the value in services they expect without falling victim to fraud,” said Texas Gas Service Director of Customer Service Callie Sneddon.

The frequency and volume of scams over the last year has increased, targeting both residential and commercial customers. As scammers target customers of all three utilities that serve El Paso, the tactics used on customers have similarities.

“Any scam can be extremely harmful financially to customers, and we find that each year utility scams become more sophisticated, increasingly common and persistent in their tactics,” states Eddie Gutierrez, EPE Vice President of Strategic Communications, Customer and Community Engagement.

“Part of our core mission in providing safe and reliable sources of power includes empowering customers with the tools necessary to quickly spot and report possible scams.”

Scammers typically utilize phone, online, text and in-person forms of communication to target utility customers.

Scammers can pose as electric, water or natural gas company employees, or third-party representatives for a utility, and usually threaten customers with service disconnection if they do not immediately make payment via a prepared debit card or other non-traceable forms of payment.

“EPWater employees are always in uniform and in utility-marked vehicles when they visit your home. We will never demand entrance and we will not ask for your social security number,” said El Paso Water Vice President of Strategic, Financial and Management Services Marcela Navarrete.

Signs of Potential Scam Activity:

· Threat to disconnect: Scammers may aggressively tell the customer his or her utility bill is past due and service will be disconnected if a payment is not made – usually within less than an hour.

· Request for immediate payment: Scammers may instruct the customer to purchase a prepaid card – widely available at retail stores – then call them back supposedly to make a bill payment to his or her utility company.

· Request for prepaid card: When the customer calls back, the caller asks the customer for the prepaid card’s number, which grants the scammer instant access to the card’s funds, and the victim’s money is gone.

How Customers Can Protect Themselves:

· Customers should never purchase a prepaid card to avoid service disconnection or shutoff. Utilities do not specify how customers should make a bill payment and they offer a variety of ways to pay a bill.

· If someone threatens immediate disconnection or shutoff of service, customers should hang up the phone, delete the email, or shut the door, and call their utility’s Customer Service Department to inquire about their account.

· If customers suspect someone is trying to scam them, they should hang up, delete the email, or shut the door. They should then call their utility company at the number on their monthly bill or the company’s website, not the phone number the scammer provides. If customers ever feel that they are in physical danger, they should call 911.

Customers who suspect that they have been victims of fraud, or who feel threatened during contact with one of these scammers, should contact local law enforcement authorities. The Federal Trade Commission’s website is also a good source of information about how to protect personal information.
Utilities United Against Scams is a consortium of over 100 U.S. and Canadian electric, water and natural gas utilities, working together to educate consumer about utility-related scams.
Visit for more information and tips about how to protect yourself from scams or follow along on social media: Twitter@U_U_A_S and Facebook @UtilitiesUnited.
Important customer service contact numbers:
El Paso Electric
Texas (915) 543-5970  |  New Mexico (575) 526-5555
El Paso Water
(915) 594-5500
Texas Gas Service

Innovative technology improves safety at El Paso Water work sites

Frank Rittel knew there had to be a safer, more effective way for El Paso Water employees to communicate at work sites other than using hand signals and shouting.

The solution came to the utility Heavy Equipment Trainer Supervisor when he watched an episode of the television show “Gold Rush.”

“The operators were using heavy equipment to search for gold, and they used hands-free radio headsets to communicate,” Rittel said. “I saw how effective they were and thought we could use them here at EPWater.”

Division Manager Martin Noriega gave Rittel the green light to explore bringing the technology to EPWater. So Rittel researched various models and called several mining companies who were using the hardhats equipped with noise-cancelling radio headsets. With that information, he purchased one headset to pilot test. Employees have been using the headset during training on the loader, bulldozer and excavator.

“We had five employees who completed the training and tested for a job on the bulldozer,” Rittel said. “All five did better than the outside candidates who didn’t complete the training.”

Heavy Equipment Operator Albert Gonzalez and Heavy Equipment Trainer Supervisor Frank Rittel tested the hands-free radio headsets for the utility. | Photo by Carlos A. Briano.

The next step in the pilot-testing process is to try the headsets out in the field.

“We want a foreman or an experienced crew member to use the headsets to communicate with the operator,” Rittel said. “So when they’re digging around structures, pipelines and overhead power lines, they can communicate to get the work done safely.”

Albert Gonzalez is a heavy equipment operator who helped Rittel test the headsets. He says they are very effective in improving communication around possible blind spots.

“As spotters, we are an extra set of eyes down on the ground,” Gonzalez said. “We can very clearly give the operator instructions. We do it in real time without having to start and stop. I can see using these at big main breaks and big excavations where there’s a lot of distance between the foreman and the operator.”

Once field testing is complete, EPWater will order 16 headsets for use throughout the utility.

Residents’ input needed for Phase Two of Playa Drain Trail

The Playa Drain Trail, a partnership of the Paso del Norte Health Foundation (Health Foundation), City of El Paso and El Paso Water, is set to expand once again – and the public is invited to provide input.

The first phase of the Playa Drain Trail from Ascarate Park to Riverside Park was completed in 2018. The City of El Paso completed the segment from Ysleta High School to Capistrano Park earlier this year.

Next week, a public meeting is scheduled to obtain information and provide input on the design of the Playa Drain Trail Phase 2 from Riverside High School to Ysleta High School.

The Health Foundation is leading the design of the trail from Riverside High School to Ysleta High School with funding support from the Health Foundation and Marathon Foundation.

Completion of this segment of the trail will result in a continuous 8.4-mile trail from Ascarate Park to Capistrano Park.

The Playa Drain Trail has several amenities such as seating and shade structures, water fountains, sunscreen stations, bicycle repair stations, exercise stations and artwork to make active living the easy choice for residents in the region and an alternative to driving for near-by residents.

Funding for the construction of the design from Whittier Drive to Elvin Way has been secured by the City of El Paso with construction to begin in 2021.

For more information on the Playa Drain Trail, click here.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019
6:00 – 7:30 p.m.
Ysleta High School – Early College Building, Room 515  |   8600 Alameda

New $3.3m EPWater project to improve water load-shifting between plants

At the September Public Service Board meeting, EPWater detailed its latest innovation to provide load-shifting capability that enables certain wastewater streams to shift from one treatment plant to another.

The Haskell Wastewater Plant treats wastewater to reclaimed water standards, and the Fred Hervey Water Reclamation Plant treats wastewater to drinking water standards.

The new project will give the utility increased flexibility in meeting water reuse demand needs in different parts of the city.

“We will construct a new pipeline that will allow us to divert flows between the Haskell Plant in south-central El Paso and the Fred Hervey Plant in northeast El Paso,” said Alan Shubert, Vice President for Operations and Technical Services. “If we have increased demand for reclaimed water in the northeast for irrigation and industrial purposes, we will be able to do that. Plus, we can use the additional treated water to recharge the Hueco Bolson aquifer.”

The same can be said if more reclaimed water is needed in south-central El Paso. Wastewater from the northeast will be diverted to meet those increased demands. The project will use existing lift stations, which will receive some plumbing revisions and upgrades for the diversion project.

Gilbert Trejo, Chief Technical Officer for EPWater, says this project is another wave into the future.

“We need to always look at the water resources we have now and maximize the ways we use them to provide water for El Pasoans,” Trejo said. “It gives us more flexibility to manage our water in different parts of the city.”

The project will cost approximately $3.3 million, but a quarter of that will be funded by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation through a grant program that funds water reclamation and reuse projects.

“This is a cutting edge project that few utilities are doing in other parts of the country” Trejo said. “So when the Bureau sees us, yet again, on the forefront of how we augment our water reuse supplies, they were enthusiastic.”

The project is scheduled to begin November 2019 and be completed winter 2020.

Greek, Roman technology still at work today with EP Water

Annual releases from Elephant Butte Reservoir into the Rio Grande are a large part of our water supply, and the length of the season is dictated by the amount of seasonal snowmelt runoff received.

When the Rio Grande stopped flowing last fall, employees of the Jonathan Rogers Water Treatment Plant took advantage to do some major work to the four Archimedes screw pumps at the facility. Archimedean screw pumps? As in, Archimedes, the famous Greek inventor, engineer and physicist?

The screw pumps are indeed named for Archimedes, but there are accounts that date the technology back 1,000 years BC.

According to Greek historian Strabo, these Archimedean screws were used to irrigate the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. And now, 3,000 years later, El Paso Water uses them to move water at both the Jonathan Rogers Plant and the Fred Hervey Water Reclamation Plant.

According to Warren Marquette, Capital Projects Manager, each screw pump can move 22 million gallons of water per day from the Rio Grande up to the five settling ponds that supply the Jonathan Rogers plant.

“Each pump is 90” diameter, has two screws per shaft and is inclined at 38 degrees,” he said. “It is driven by a 125 horsepower motor and rotates at roughly 30 RPM. By far, these pumps deliver some of the highest volume of water for the power required to operate them.”

The maintenance, upkeep and recoating of these pumps during the months the Rio Grande is not flowing ensures maximum movement of water when it is released in spring and summer months.

“We replace the bearings on one of the screw pumps each season,” Marquette said. “The original gearboxes have all been replaced over the past three years. And there are plans to replace all four pumps and the entire lube system. The first one is on the way and should arrive in October.”

Although the Archimedes screws no longer provide water to the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, they will continue to provide safe, reliable water to El Pasoans for decades to come.

EP Water: The challenges of treating the color, smell of water

For decades, El Paso Water has been using Granular Activated Carbon (GAC) to remove substances that generate color and smell in untreated river water.

But how do you measure which GAC products on the market do the best job? After all, smell and sight are subjective.

Researchers Francisco Solis, Jr. and Juan Canales are working under the direction of UTEP Professor Dr. Anthony J. Tarquin to answer that question in a measurable way, helping EPWater maximize its river water treatment processes.

“We discovered through trial and error that you need 20 parts per million of geosmin, the algae that causes odor, to be noticeable by the human nose,” Solis said. “We started with that ratio, then heated the water because heated water intensifies the smell.”

Solis and Canales ran the algae water through various GAC products that vary by supplier processes, source material and/or granular size; the results showed some were better at removing the odor than others.

Photo courtesy EP Water

To test for removal of the organics that cause color, Solis and Canales used blue, red and yellow food coloring. After running the water through the various GAC products, the samples were put through a spectrophotometer.

The instrument measures the light that is absorbed by the color of the sample and translates it into a number.

The lower the number, the less color is in the water.

Using input from the plant operators, the two researchers are now testing the durability of various GAC products.

Currently, EPWater changes its GAC every three to five years.

But many of the plant operators were convinced that some of the better GAC products could perform well beyond that timeframe.

“They felt that some of the better-quality GAC products could be extremely effective up to 10 years,” Canales said. “So far, the data is proving this theory to be true. We still have several months of tests to conduct, but keeping the GAC in service longer could potentially save the utility and ratepayers millions of dollars.”

Video+Story: Wildlife abounds at TecH2O Learning Center habitat

More of an open-air zoo than a center for learning, an array of flora and fauna now welcome thousands of visitors annually to the TecH2O Learning Center’s wildlife habitat.

Set in thriving desert landscape in far-east El Paso, where desert cottontail, bobcats and rattlesnakes roam freely – the center is mere miles away from a six-lane highway and tens of thousands of El Pasoans.

The TecH2O center educates visitors on the importance of water conservation, as well as the rich biodiversity of the Chihuahuan Desert.

The center meets the essentials of a Certified Texas Wildscape by providing food, shelter and water for wildlife and features at least 50% of plants native to the region.

Big animal sightings are rare, but a closer look reveals the site is teeming with wildlife.

Anai Padilla, Water Conservation/TecH2O Manager, recounts many close encounters of the wild kind –including coyotes, tarantula hawks and deer – and has the cellphone photos to prove it.

“I was going to my car once when I heard the rattle,” Padilla said. “I broke out into a cold sweat and looked underneath the car. A rattlesnake was there in the shade, and it was about a meter long, with eight rattles.”

Padilla and Alex Avila, Facilities Maintenance Worker, managed to get the snake to move, but the encounter reminded Padilla and her staff that they were visitors in the wildlife habitat.

Then, there was the time Padilla and staff members photographed young bobcats outside the TecH2O. When they realized mother bobcat was not with her litter, they beat a hasty retreat inside.

“This is where they live,” Padilla said. “We are basically invading their home; we have to adapt to them.”

Alma Klages, Water Conservation Technician, reminds even the youngest visitors to be mindful of the surroundings. The grounds feature about 400 trees, but shrubs are rare thanks to the desert cottontails who favor them as a snack.

“We don’t want them to disturb anything,” Klages said. “The wildlife is doing their best to exist and survive around us.”

Workers at the TecH2O Learning Center delight in wildlife sightings on the grounds, but all bets are off when a tarantula is on the premises.

Water Conservation Technician Dawn Walker-Hughes proudly shows off her photos of a recent tarantula sighting.

When pressed for details, Walker Hughes admits staff workers eventually lost their cool, screaming and fleeing when the tarantula crawled closer.

“I heard they can jump,” Padilla said, as Walker-Hughes giggled.

Activities at the TecH2O take place inside, so as not to disturb the wildlife, such as a family of quail or bees.

“We want our visitors to be cautious and aware of their surroundings,” Padilla said. “Watch your step and value all of the animals and insects you see here because they have a purpose.”


For more information on the TecH2O Learning Center, click here.

EP Water: Summer sandbag distribution schedule begins July 8

Officials with El Paso Water announced that customers can now get sandbags for flood control any day of the week beginning Monday, July 8. The expanded site locations and hours will be available through the end of September.

The summer distribution sites will reopen in the Mission Valley, west, central and east areas of El Paso, and hours will be extended at the Stormwater Operations Center, which is open throughout the year.

Customers in areas prone to flooding are encouraged to have sandbags on hand before most heavy rains begin. The limit is 10 bags per visit.

Customers will need to show a Texas ID or an El Paso Water bill to get sandbags.

El Paso Water does not charge for sandbags. Persons who cannot lift heavy items should be accompanied by someone who can assist with loading and unloading the bags.

Summer Distribution Locations & Schedule July 8 – End of September
Northeast Stormwater Operations Center
4801 Fred Wilson Ave. 79906 (map)
8 a.m. – 8 p.m.
2 p.m. – 8 p.m.
West Artcraft Booster Station
7830 Paseo Del Norte (map)
Daily 2 p.m. – 8 p.m.
Central Haskell R. Street Wastewater Treatment Plant
913 S. Boone St. (map)
Daily 2 p.m. – 8 p.m.
East Cielo Vista Booster Station
9428 Daugherty Drive (map)
Daily 2 p.m. – 8 p.m.
Mission Valley Blackie Chesher Park
9292 Escobar Drive (map)
Daily 2 p.m. – 8 p.m.

City, County, Law Enforcement and EP Water partner to battle illegal dumping

At a news conference recently held at the El Paso Zoo, several local agencies, law enforcement and community members teamed up to redouble their efforts to battle illegal dumping in El Paso County.

Assistant County Attorney Cristina Viesca-Santos said her office takes environmental crimes seriously.

In 2018, they prosecuted six cases and they are on pace to double that this year with five prosecuted so far. But the County Attorney’s Office, El Paso Police, El Paso Water, El Paso Environmental Services and El Paso County Water Improvement District #1 know there are far more occurrences than prosecution numbers may indicate.

“If you see illegal dumping, pull out your phone and record the incident,” Viesca-Santos said. “Get video and take photos of the vehicle’s license plate number, of the person disposing the waste and the type of waste being dumped. And please report it.”

This type of information is needed to prosecute an illegal dumping case, especially since it’s difficult for law enforcement to catch people in the act.

Law enforcement and County Attorneys need the identity of the offender, which is the reason the video and photos play an integral part.

“Every time we have a storm in El Paso, we have a blocked storm drain from something that was dumped illegally,” said EPWater Vice President Alan Shubert. “We’ve found car bumpers, stoves, furniture, beds, and even entire automobiles. Flooding puts the community at risk.”

The agencies are collaborating on an illegal dumping outreach campaign that encourages citizens to be watchful, take a stand and report illegal dumping. Campaign messages are being shared on billboards, bus benches and shelters, radio, the internet and social media.

Kurt Fenstermacher, Director of El Paso Environmental Services, says the public can call 3-1-1 to request cleanups of illegally-dumped waste.

“Our crews spend countless hours removing thousands of pounds of trash,” he said. “Tell your friends and family members this is NOT how we treat our community. Spread the word to call 3-1-1.”

3-1-1 operators can provide the addresses and hours of operation for the five Citizen Collection Centers where the community can properly dispose of household waste.

For more information, please visit

As Summer approaches, EP Water preps wells for demand

As the city waits to receive its shortened river supply in June, El Paso Water is closing in on a May 1 deadline to prime eight new wells for pumping fresh water into the distribution system.

“Every drop of water counts when your city is in the middle of a long-term river drought, EP Water officials shared. “EPWater will supplement El Paso’s water supply by responsibly pumping from wells to meet demand.”

Visitors to a well-equipping event earlier this month were given a behind-the-scenes tour, as crews prepared wells for the water distribution system.

The group was shown well 42A – 705-foot-deep well – and one of eight included in EPWater’s Drought Resolution Program, which was approved in July to allow for expedited procurement for drought-relief projects.

Utility Water Resources Manager Scott Reinert invited engineering consultants from Brown and Caldwell to engage visitors with details about the drought-relief project, which is about 75% complete.

Visitors learned about the multi-disciplined approach necessary to complete a well-equipping project – one that involves civil, mechanical, electrical and structural engineering.

“Hosting an event like this lets people see the efforts from the contractor, consultants and the El Paso Water staff,” Reinert said.

Engineer Joe Moreno of Brown and Caldwell told visitors that Well 42A is a replacement for the old Well 42, which had collapsed and was no longer able to produce water.

“It’s more cost effective to drill a whole new well,” Moreno said. “Rehab can be quite expensive, and if you rehab you are not going to get as many years like you would with a brand-new well.”

“You can spend $200,000 fixing an old well and it may last about five years, or you can spend more money on a new one and it will last 50 years,” Reinert added.

Operation of the 705 foot-deep well will soon be connected into EPWater’s Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) system, said Engineer Armando Ramirez of Brown and Caldwell. Once connected, the well will be among the hundreds remotely monitored by Central Control – key to the city’s water distribution.

“Central Control has the ability to stop and start the well,” Ramirez said. “They will know how much flow, the pressure and if there’s an intrusion.”

Utility Engineering Associate Eric Jacquez was among the visitors who said he was happy to gain a wealth of knowledge about wells.

“I didn’t know the process and rules behind building a well,” Jacquez said. “This was educational and worthwhile.”

“I have worked at El Paso Water for a little over 30 years and this is the first time I saw how we search for a suitable location to drill a well, construct and make it operational,” said Oscar Chavez, Engineering Lead Technician. “It’s not as simple as I thought. I believe the public and El Paso Water employees benefit greatly from attending these events.”

Reinert expects to host another similar educational event in the fall.

“It shows what’s involved in water supply projects as well as the teamwork that’s needed to get these projects completed with aggressive scheduled requirements,” he said.

Owls in danger receive new home

An unusual visitor started making regular appearances at the construction site of the Thomas Manor Park Pond Improvement project a few months ago.

As construction workers and engineers worked to deepen the pond and expand the stormwater infrastructure, they discovered an owl in the area.

“We got a call from the contractor that there was an owl living on the site,” said El Paso Water Project Manager Ryan Stubbs. “It was living in a spot where they had done some work. It moved over to another spot and kept moving to different areas of the project.”

After discussing the matter with the project consultants and the landscape architects, the decision was made to contact Texas Parks and Wildlife.

“They were very concerned about the owl living in a drainage pipe because they were going to have to move that pipe,” said Lois Balin, Urban Wildlife Biologist for Texas Parks and Wildlife. “I went and assessed the situation to see what we could do.”

A protected bird

Photo courtesy EP Water

The owl living in the drainage pipe is a male burrowing owl, a bird federally protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act in the United States, Canada and Mexico. Burrowing owls are listed as Endangered in Canada and Threatened in Mexico.

They are a Bird of Conservation Concern at the national level in three U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service regions, and they are listed as a Species of Concern at the state level.

“The workers were sure there was a pair (of owls) in the area,” Balin said. “I started looking for evidence of a pair because we were approaching breeding season.”

Because of their special status in the state, Balin said it’s especially important not to disrupt owls while they are breeding. But because it was early on in the season, there was a possibility the female owl had not begun laying eggs. Using some cameras, Balin looked for evidence of a nest.

“Luckily for the project, it hadn’t laid any eggs yet,” Balin said. “So I knew it was okay to make a habitat for them in a safer area. The owls would find it and move in on their own.”

A team effort

Photo courtesy EP Water

Balin builds habits for burrowing owls, but she usually installs them alone with a shovel. It typically takes her an entire day to dig and bury the habitats. But the contractors were not going to let her tackle that project by herself.

“They were so helpful,” Balin said. “I’ve never worked with a more delightful crew. They brought their heavy equipment, which made it so easy and efficient.”

With the help of the crews, two underground shelters with built-in tunnels were quickly installed in less than an hour. One shelter is for the female, nest and hatchlings.

The second shelter is the “man cave” where the male will sleep when he is not hunting or guarding the other burrow.

“They seem to be doing just fine,” construction Foreman Jerry Patton said. “We wondered how long it would take them to find it. Lois said they would find it right away. We were kind of doubtful. But we noticed two days later, they had moved in.”

Community help needed

Photo courtesy EP Water

For Gisela Dagnino, Engineering Division Manager for Stormwater Technical Servies, the owls have been an excellent reminder that although EPWater projects provide great benefit to the community, they may impact wildlife and nature.

“We have to be mindful of the community, but also of the flora and fauna that we may disrupt,” Dagnino said. “I believe our projects can be successful and beautiful without having a permanent detrimental effect on nature. It was up to us to make these owls safe.”

As the project comes to a close, EPWater and Texas Parks and Wildlife will work with the landscape architects to ensure that the area has the open space the owls need to thrive. According to Balin, additional warning signs and perhaps some form of soft fencing will be installed to protect the birds from human intrusion. Thomas Manor Park is scheduled to be in full use by the fall of 2019.

“El Paso Water, Parks and Recreation, the consultants and the construction company should be commended for protecting these birds,” Balin said. “El Paso is fortunate and blessed to have these adorable, little owls living amongst us. They eat all kinds of insects and rodents, so they’re good for the environment. But we all need to appreciate them, at a distance.”

Op-Ed: Purified water safeguards public’s health

When you brush your teeth each morning, do you ever pause to think about how that fresh water arrives at your tap?

Beyond the water tanks, pumps and pipelines that deliver water to your home, there is also a carefully engineered design process to produce cost-effective, high-quality water through advanced technologies.

Water utilities provide a critical, basic service to communities. They are actually at the cornerstone of public health, yet we take for granted our basic water and wastewater services and the public health benefits they provide.

As a health professional, it’s concerning to see how many places around the globe lack basic water and wastewater infrastructure. Lack of sanitary systems to properly drain sewage are the leading cause of waterborne disease worldwide.

Water-scarce countries, in particular, face both water quality and quantity challenges. Countries like the United States, however, have systems in place that separate wastes and contaminants from water, achieving public health principles at the most fundamental level.
A solution to supply needs

Like El Paso, many growing cities in arid regions must overcome growth challenges and innovate to serve increasing numbers of homes and businesses. El Pasoans know that every drop of water counts. We see constant reminders with limited rainfall and long-term river drought. This year, we have yet to see the Rio Grande flow through our city and will only receive three out of six months of our usual water supply.

El Paso is prepared for drought because of our wise investments in desalination and water reuse. For over 30 years, El Paso Water has treated wastewater to drinking water standards and returned it to the aquifer so that it’s there when we need it.

El Paso’s next logical step in water reuse is to purify treated wastewater to drinking water standards with advanced technologies, so that it can go directly into our water distribution system. The process involves a multi-barrier approach that combines advanced filtration and disinfection technologies designed for public health protection.

The redundancy provided by the different types of treatment technologies effectively removes some of the most-resistant contaminants. Purified water is among the highest quality drinking water produced, yet some question the safety of using purified water as a drinking water source.

Human health risk assessments have been conducted to evaluate the likelihood of infection or illness through contact with purified water. Interestingly, assessment outcomes inspire confidence, but false perceptions of associated health risks have hindered acceptance of this drinking water source.

Highly engineered treatment processes allow us to treat wastewater in methods mimicking the natural water cycle. We are already exposed to recycled water because many upstream communities, such as Albuquerque, have wastewater treatment plants that discharge effluent into the Rio Grande, which then is treated for our drinking water.

As a member of the National Water Research Institute Advisory Panel that has reviewed the full-scale pilot for this facility, I can assure you the holistic approach to purification provides the necessary public health safeguards. Continuous water quality monitoring by Texas Commission on Environmental Quality provides oversight and accountability.

EPWater is designing the Advanced Water Purification Facility to send purified water straight to your tap. The quantity – 10 million gallons per day – will get us through a dreaded drought year when river water doesn’t arrive at all.


Dr. Kristina D. Mena, a water microbiologist, is an associate professor of environmental sciences at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston.

Mena is secretary-treasurer for the Public Service Board, which governs El Paso Water.




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Video+Story: EP Water’s Pipe Tapping Team eyes top state prize

At El Paso Water, Eddie Pulido, Armando Gonzalez, Norberto Olmos and Julio Soto make important daily contributions as a construction superintendent, utility pipelayers and a lead service worker.

On April 4, the four water distribution colleagues will take their places as coach, setter, cranker and copper during the Texas section of the American Water Works Association (AWWA) Pipe Tapping Competition in Houston.

EPWater’s pipe tapping team members are eyeing the top prize, and it’s not just a pipe dream.

“We have a good team, and we know we are capable,” said Pulido, the coach. “We set the bar and decided this year we are going for all the marbles.”

The friendly competition is intense, pitting utility teams in a race that simulates connecting a copper pipe from a water meter to a water main.

It’s a contest that requires precision, strength and speed, all while maintaining the highest level of safety and quality. Errors, such as leaks or safety missteps, may result in penalty time added to their results. Winning times clock in under the 2-minute mark.

Each team member’s role counts, said Gonzalez, making teamwork and communication of utmost importance. If anything starts to go wrong, it can affect the entire team.

“If the team doesn’t communicate, it results in penalties,” said Soto, the copper. “I think we perform well under pressure. We are ready.”

“When we balance our roles, it’s like a dance,” said Olmos, the cranker. “We have to work together. These guys are like family. It’s a team effort, with a lot of communication.”

Gonzalez, the setter, loves being part of the team. Nothing feels better than garnering support from EPWater management and co-workers, including the support of family and friends from his native hometown of Monterrey, Mexico.

“When a video of our performance went on YouTube, family and friends were so proud,” Gonzalez said, who has worked at EPWater 12 years. Gonzalez frequently reminds his teammates they are the first team from the utility to compete.

The team has picked up valuable tips from winning teams over the years, Soto said.

“They told me I was really good and gave me ideas on how to perform faster,” Soto said, who has worked at EPWater five years. Trading work tips and the experience of competing translates into skills he can put to work in the field, he added.

Felipe Lopez, Distribution and Collection Systems Division Manager, said the team has support from the field office but would like to see their fan base grow.

“These guys have put in three hours of their own time to practice on Saturdays on top of working all week and on top of working their stand-by crew shifts at night,” Lopez said. “They have been out here more than they have been home.”

The winner on April 4 advances to compete in June at AWWA’s Annual Conference and Exposition in Denver.

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