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Home | Tag Archives: ep water

Tag Archives: ep water

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

Developers, EP Water employ new agreement to save time, money during new neighborhood development

El Paso builders and developers can now complete basic utility work such as manhole installations and fire hydrant relocations that previously only El Paso Water crews were allowed to perform.

Utility officials say that under the new Limited Scope Development Agreement (LSDA), developers and builders can complete some utility work on their own schedule using approved contractors.

“This move will give greater control to those overseeing construction projects and will save time and related costs,” EP Water officials shared. “This also will free up EPWater crews to work on other priority projects throughout the city.”

The agreement, which went into effect March 1, was developed through a series of conversations with stakeholders in land development, commercial construction and residential building communities.

“We listened and acted. The LSDA was created to facilitate the development process, and it places the timing and costs in the hands of the Owners/Developers,” said Adriana Castillo, engineering division manager at EPWater.

“They can negotiate the cost with possible contractors rather than waiting for the work to be done by EPWater.”

To help the community understand the new agreement, EPWater held a virtual meeting on Wednesday July 29 to present information on the new LSDA and answer questions from the development community.

For any questions, please contact Maria Betancourt with Planning & Development at (915) 594-5672.

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: EPWater’s Westside lift station technology lauded at digital conference

Technology employed at El Paso Water’s Frontera Lift Station continues to draw the international spotlight – this time from the recent 2020 Water Environment Federation (WEF) Collections System Digital Conference.

“We are one of the shining case studies in the industry because the technology really worked at the Frontera Lift Station,” David Ornelas, Wastewater Systems Division Manager said. “The lift station is in a flat Upper Valley area of west El Paso, relying on pressurized force mains to move wastewater as opposed to traditional gravity wastewater pipes.”

The conference thrust the West Side lift station’s advances in super oxygenation on an international stage again in early June. Wastewater industry interest in the cost-effective odor control system has been constant since its installation in 2014.

Calls are still coming in from other utilities curious about the technology, added Ornelas.

Ornelas and Aide Fuentes, Wastewater Treatment Manager, were involved in the original case study to identify technology to reduce odors at the nearby John T. Hickerson Water Reclamation Plant. The Frontera Lift Station receives approximately 10 MGD of wastewater and pumps it to the nearby Hickerson Plant.

Super oxygenation system technology was still novel in the U.S., and EPWater and project contractor Jacobs Engineering agreed the lift station was in an ideal location to use the technology. The system would be located upstream – 3.5 miles – from the plant.

“Not only did it help reduce the odors at the Hickerson Plant, but it helped control the odors and corrosion in the force mains that run parallel along the path from the lift station to the plant,” Ornelas said. “This technology has been a really good match.”

The beauty of the super oxygenation system technology is in its simplicity, Ornelas and Fuentes said. The technology makes the lift station a better neighbor by discharging air that’s much cleaner and reduces the number of odor complaints we get, they said.

“This is innovative and cost effective because oxygen is relatively cheap and available,” Ornelas said. “The Speece Cone is a one-of-a-kind patented system that increases the amount of oxygen in the water, reducing odors significantly.”

The project was not without its challenges, said Fuentes, who served as the project manager in construction at the time. Among the challenges were:

  • Because the super oxygenation cone sits about 24 feet above the force main, piping had to be routed to ground level and then back to the force main.
  • The lift station header had to be “hot tapped” by the contractor because the flow in the pipe was active and could not be taken out of service during the construction process.

Despite the challenges, the technology has proven its worth and has furthered EPWater’s reputation in the industry as an innovator.

“We were one of the first ones to employ this technology here in the U.S.,” Fuentes said. “At the time, there were only a handful of utilities using it.”

“It was a team effort, for sure,” Ornelas said.

To see a video about the relationship between the Frontera Lift Station and the John T. Hickerson Water Reclamation Plant, click here.

Photo courtesy EP Water

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 offers tips to ‘Water Smarter’ during summer season

As temperatures are warming up, many El Pasoans are eager to work in their gardens.  With the launch of EP Water’s ‘Water Smarter’ campaign, both the homeowner and the region can benefit from participation.

“During this unprecedented time when many El Pasoans are home, gardening offers us a chance to make a difference in our yards and connect with nature.” EP Water’s John Balliew, P.E., President/CEO shared.  “Aside from the mental health and physical benefits, gardening also offers an educational opportunity for parents to teach children how to maintain a garden while watering smarter.”

The Water Smarter campaign offers indoor and outdoor tips on how to save both water and money. Customers can reduce their bills through water conservation.  During the pandemic, with most of our family members at home, most are washing more dishes and doing more laundry.

This, combined with the recent rate increase, may result in higher water bills. However, following tips from our Water Smarter public service campaign can save water at home while also saving customers some money.

The online Conservation Page offers many simple tips to reduce water use indoors and outdoors.

When heading out to local nurseries to plan gardens, residents are asked to design landscapes to save water. For ideas, area gardners can visit  EPWater’s interactive website to learn more about desert-friendly plants to include in your water-efficient landscapes.

Aside from adding color year-round to yards, native and adapted plants for our region require less water.

Also, the time-of-day watering schedule is in effect through September, allowing residents to water their landscape up to three times a week before 10 a.m. or after 6 p.m.

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

Gardeners see the benefits of following this schedule because it reduces water loss from evaporation, as well as conserving water and saving money.

“Additionally, customers who use less than 4 CCFs (1 CCF is approximately 748 gallons) of water in a month will receive a conservation waiver – in effect saving nearly $12 a month,” utility officials added.

Small changes around your home can not only make a big difference in monthly water bills, conservation efforts will ensure sustainability for future generations.

“For more than 30 years, EPWater customers have made conservation a way of life in El Paso, and we are thankful for the community’s support,” Balliew added. “The community has embraced water conservation as a daily ritual, and we encourage you to water even smarter.”

EPWater shares journey to social distancing, keeping utility running during COVID19 emergency

Before the first case of Coronavirus (COVID-19) was reported in the city, El Paso Water officials share the steps they took to secure the workplace for employees and the public.

Social-distancing guidelines were quickly implemented in early March, and customer services shifted online to reduce the risk of exposure, minimize the spread of the virus and protect the health and safety of employees and customers. With new safety protocols in place, EPWater moved to ensure critical facilities would keep taps flowing.

“These may seem like extreme measures, but we are doing everything in our power to protect the health of both our employees and customers,” said John Balliew, President and CEO.

Inside the workplace, EPWater employees canceled business travel, limited in-person contact and made teleconferencing the new norm.

Fleet Maintenance and Stormwater employees made sanitizer spray to disinfect utility vehicles, and a specialty firm was hired to sanitize some EPWater facilities.

“We are moving to take every precaution in this rapidly changing situation,” said Alan Shubert, Vice President, Operations and Technical Services. “We are continuing to adapt and to adopt new strategies to avoid spreading this virus.”

At the Roberto Bustamante Wastewater Treatment Plant, essential employees are taking new preventive measures. Working safe means

Photo courtesy EPWater

staggering lunch breaks and routinely disinfecting workstations, chairs and tables, Superintendent Martin Ortiz said.

“We are also disinfecting our tools before and after using them to eliminate contamination,” Olivas said. “On the supervisory side, we are being vigilant to spot an employee showing signs of illness.”

At job sites, employees in the field continue to provide the same essential services of repairing main breaks and water outages, but with precautions.

“We are following social-distancing procedures, sanitizing and drinking from individual water containers,” said Felipe Lopez, Utility Chief Operations Officer.

“In our line of work, we rely on teamwork, which usually requires two people. They make the repair but immediately separate once the task is complete.”

Around EPWater, a portion of the workforce began working from home, if their responsibilities could be performed remotely. Other workers resumed essential duties at the office.

Senior Secretary Liz Parra, one of the few in her department not working remotely, is busy balancing new electronic procedures in Project Management.

“It’s been pretty hectic,” Parra said. “We’ll make it through this and hopefully be more efficient than we were before.”

Photo courtesy EPWater

New social-distancing guidelines required new accommodations for some Customer Service employees across EPWater.

“We spread out employees to adhere to the guidelines,” said Mark Bolduc, Business and Customer Service Manager. “Some are working remotely, some remain in the call center, and some are spread across the Hawkins building. These measures help us to minimize risks to everyone as much as possible and still keep services flowing for our customers.”

With new safety protocols in place, EPWater continues to monitor the COVID-19 crisis and respond.

The Public Service Board meeting on April 8 was held via teleconference and the public was urged to listen to the audio stream.

Across the utility, employees are doing their part to stay positive.

“The Employee Assistance Program is still available for employees,” said Ana Sanchez, Utility Human Resources Manager. “I experience fear like everyone else, but it is important to have faith that we will get through this. This is temporary. As one of my favorite sayings goes, this too shall pass.”

Above all, senior leaders at the utility are grateful for employees’ steadfast dedication and teamwork to keep taps flowing.

“I couldn’t be prouder of our staff for coming together during this extremely challenging time,” said Marcela Navarrete, Vice President of Strategic, Financial and Management Services. “We ask everyone to keep themselves safe and healthy by continuing to practice social distancing, washing hands often and staying home if sick. The community is counting on us to continue to provide services, and I know we will not fail them.”

To follow the latest updates on how EPWater is responding to COVID-19, click here.

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).

EP Water officials: Partially treated wastewater spill at plant reported to TCEQ

El Paso Water officials say a ‘significant leak’ at their South-Central wastewater plant on Wednesday was cleaned up and reported to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ)

According to EP Water, a contractor working on improvements at the Haskell R. Street Wastewater Plant had problems with bypass pumping that feeds partially treated wastewater into the plant at approximately 7 p.m. on Wednesday, March 25.

Officials say this event resulted in a significant leak, causing an estimated 200,000 gallons of partially-treated wastewater to spill onto the plant at 4100 Delta Drive and a small portion of Boone Street.

No storm drains, waterways or public drinking water supplies were impacted or are at risk as a result of the spill.*

*Persons using private drinking water supply wells located within 1/2-mile of the spill site or within the potentially affected area should use only water that has been distilled or boiled at a rolling boil for at least one minute for all personal uses including drinking, cooking, bathing and tooth brushing. Individuals with private water wells should have their well water tested and disinfected, if necessary, prior to discontinuing distillation or boiling.

Crews have already cleaned up the wastewater that spilled onto Boone Street and completed disinfection. They are still working to clean up small amounts at the Haskell Plant and pump it back into the facility for full treatment.

“Wastewater service is not affected, but nearby residents may experience increased plant odors,” EP Water officials shared.  “These odors do not pose a public health concern.”

El Paso Water notified the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) about the incident and this public notification is part of the requirements.

If the public has questions on the spill, they may contact David Ornelas, Wastewater Systems Division Manager at El Paso Water at 915-594-5730.

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.

New Action Plan aims to increase water recycling across the nation

WASHINGTON, DC – Earlier this week, the WateReuse Association joined the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in Washington, DC to unveil the National Water Reuse Action Plan, a collaborative effort that represents the first initiative of its magnitude to be coordinated across the water sector. Actions taken under this plan will bolster the sustainability, security and resilience of the nation’s water resources.

Gilbert Trejo, president of the WateReuse Association (WRA) and chief technical officer at El Paso Water, offered remarks and said that WRA has worked with the EPA and partners to solicit public input and stakeholder feedback so that Action Plan initiatives were both strategic and actionable.

“The WateReuse Association is dedicated to advancing water recycling across the nation,” Trejo said. “It was an honor to work with partners in the water sector on this Plan that I believe connects the dots, and offers bold and innovative solutions to our water resource challenges.”

Collaborating partners included the American Water Works Association, the Association of Metropolitan Agencies, the National Association of Clean Water Agencies, the Water Environment Federation, and the Water Research Foundation along with several federal agencies.

“We shared information, broke down silos and aligned and leveraged each other’s resources,” Trejo said. “This kind of partnership will have a lasting impact and clear a path toward significantly increasing the adoption and acceptance of water reuse in the coming years.”

Trejo highlighted El Paso’s history with reuse and a range of benefits from recycling water. Over three decades, EPWater has used water recycling to restore sensitive wetlands ecosystems, to cool power plants and to irrigate golf courses, city parks, school grounds, apartment landscapes, and construction and industrial sites. The results have conserved water and helped stabilize a declining aquifer.

Trejo said El Paso is leaning into the future with construction planned for an Advanced Water Purification Facility, which will purify 10 million gallons per day of reclaimed water to be pumped directly into the city’s distribution system.

“In our region, water reuse is a solution for drought resilience,” Trejo said. “But in other parts of the country, water reuse provides a solution to challenges that cities face when storm runoff impacts reservoirs, when water quality is not meeting standards, or when utility discharges have the potential to impact sensitive ecosystems. Water reuse is a 360 solution.”

The Action Plan includes clear commitments – 37 actions across 11 strategic themes – to further water reuse and help assure the sustainability, security and resilience of the nation’s water resources.

“While acknowledging significant accomplishments the agency and its partners have made in providing Americans with access to safe water, we also see emerging challenges that require collaborative and creative solutions,” said EPA Assistant Administrator for Water Dave Ross.

“Together, we are leading efforts to address these challenges to protect public health and the environment while supporting the economy—today and for future generations.”

For more on water reuse, and to read the National Water Reuse Action Plan click here.

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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