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Home | Tag Archives: ep water

Tag Archives: ep water

PSB reviews 2020-21 proposed budgets; If approved, increase totals $2.81/month for homeowners

El Paso Water staff presented the proposed Fiscal Year 2020-21 Stormwater and Water/Wastewater budgets to the Public Service Board (PSB) on Monday evening.

“Major wastewater system upgrades along with pipeline extensions and new water storage tanks are needed to serve our growing community,” said EPWater President and CEO John Balliew. “To better serve our customers, we are improving our customer service and emergency dispatcher technology.”

The PSB will consider a budget that includes no increase in stormwater fees, a 5% increase in water fees, and a 5% increase in wastewater fees.

If approved, the combined $490 million budget will result in an average increase of $2.81 per month for the typical homeowner.

Four key priorities are driving the increase to budget and rates: securing our future water supply, system expansion for city growth, improvements in customer services and rehabilitation of aging infrastructure. Investments in these areas will support long-term sustainability and reliability for EPWater customers.

Major capital projects for the new fiscal year include launching an expansion of the Bustamante Wastewater Treatment Plant, upgrading our treatment system at the Canal plant in Chihuahuita, and beginning expansion of the Kay Bailey Hutchison Desalination Plant.

Work will continue to complete stormwater flood control projects already underway.

Via a news release, EP Water officials shared the following:

Compared to Houston, Dallas, Fort Worth, Austin and San Antonio, EPWater’s monthly charges are the second-lowest of large Texas cities; only Laredo’s water rates are lower.

EPWater’s rate structure will continue to provide relief for low-water users while charging more for high-water users. Customers using less than 4 ccfs* (2,992 gallons) of water in any given month will receive a waiver of the $11.04 Water Supply Replacement Charge.

Last year, the charge was waived on about 33,000 monthly customer bills. EPWater will also continue its partnership with Amistad to help low-income senior customers with bill payment assistance, conservation, and money management counseling.

If approved, the budgets, rates and fees will go into effect at the start of the fiscal year, which begins March 1, 2020.

EPWater embraces new ways to reduce waste

Recent strategic investments are priming El Paso Water for a bright future in resource recovery at their wastewater plants.

“Expanding on our industrywide reputation in innovation, EPWater is focusing on maximizing our efforts to convert waste into a resource,” EP Water officials shared via an emailed release.

At the Haskell R. Street Wastewater Treatment Plant, which serves Central El Paso, technicians are working to expand energy generation using their co-digestion system project.

“It begins with fats, oils and grease (FOG) collected from local food service establishments,” officials explain. “Liquid Environmental Solutions (LES) will deliver the FOG supply to the Haskell plant, where it mixes with wastewater sludge to boost biogas production.”

Haskell employees use the gas to run boilers, reducing our energy costs significantly. This will allow the plant to produce more heat and power for treatment processes.

Through co-digestion, EPWater is aiming to supplement the Haskell plant’s power needs with the energy from biogas produced onsite. The benefits stretch beyond cost and energy efficiency.

Diverting FOG from landfills to digesters at Haskell also helps our community manage waste more responsibly. Ultimately, we are doing our part to reduce the volume of waste disposed and recover energy from waste products.

EP Water’s efforts don’t stop there, as they are studying innovative treatment technologies for resource recovery at the Roberto R. Bustamante Wastewater Treatment Plant.

In collaboration with Texas A&M AgriLife Research Center, EPWater recently began a compost pilot project to recover nutrients from solids treatment processes at the Bustamante Plant. Instead of using energy at the plant to treat filtrate – a byproduct of dewatered sludge – the filtrate will be used in the project.

The study uses more than 38,000 pounds of compost material supplied by Las Cruces Utilities. Rows of the compost will undergo batch spraying, using the Bustamante Plant liquid filtrate. The goal is to reduce the amount of filtrate in the plant’s wastewater, with an eye toward the production of an enriched organic fertilizer.

The study’s environmental benefits are immense. Recovering the liquid filtrate reduces energy consumption at the Bustamante Plant, and diverting sludge from the landfill reduces disposal costs and eases the burden on the landfill. The enriched compost will also reduce the need for chemical fertilizers used by farmers.

Early results of the pilot project are favorable, and the possibilities are endless.

With these efforts, EPWater is joining a new generation of wastewater treatment plants, where energy, organics and other resources will be recovered as valuable byproducts.

Ultimately, EPWater’s work will improve the resiliency, reliability and revenue of our utility while delivering on our commitment to environmental stewardship.

EP Water invests to thwart cybercriminals

As warnings of cyberattacks grow, El Paso Water officials share that the organization is diligently fortifying their processes with cybersecurity risk management to ensure their preparedness.

“Cybercrime is the No. 1 threat targeting business and critical infrastructure in the U.S., according to national security experts including the FBI and Department of Homeland Security,” EP Water officials share. “We have been working behind the scenes to analyze our vulnerabilities and develop a reliable cybersecurity risk management program to protect EPWater and our customers.”

With the recent addition of a cybersecurity analyst, EPWater has taken critical steps to further secure operations and customer data.

Information Security Analyst Anthony Buonvino, Chief Information Officer Fred Solano and our Information Technology department urge utility employees – who are on the front lines of cybersecurity defense – to be aware of cyber risks.

Officials say that their current cybersecurity efforts mirror the triad of confidentiality, integrity and availability (CIA) – the core of our security model – designed to guide information security policies within an organization.

“Our customers can count on EPWater to improve data confidentiality and guard against unintentional, unlawful or unauthorized access,” officials stated.

EPWater relies on a real-time Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) system to control water distribution operations remotely.

Company officials add, “Our recent investment in a monitoring system adds a security layer to better safeguard our utility water systems in the event of a cyberattack or other disaster. ”

This new monitoring device uses the utility’s existing equipment but collects and transmits data on a different network from our SCADA system. The technology acts as a SCADA oversight system, helping EPWater’s central control operators monitor levels in our water tanks so utility operations can continue without service interruption.

The SCADA Verification Unit (SVU) has already proven its worth as a cybersecurity solution during power outages.

“Even if our SCADA system is down, the new and reliable backup monitoring system is still tracking tank water levels as we work to restore and return to normal operations as quickly as possible,” officials say.

“Cyberthreats are growing and evolving; addressing cybersecurity challenges puts EPWater in a better position to deliver the reliable, high quality water services that customers expect,” EP Water officials added.

With Silver Springs Arroyo Dam project, every detail counts, including yucca plants

When the project to construct the Silver Springs Arroyo Dam was completed in early October, a unique phase two of the project began.

While the new dam helps reduce flood risk for the area, building it resulted in loss of some natural flora. Neighbors of the project were highly engaged from the beginning of the construction project and voiced concerns about the loss, and EPWater listened.

El Paso Water hired Arcadis U.S., Inc. to develop a site vegetation restoration plan.

The goal of the project is to restore the site to native pre-construction vegetative conditions and to provide a seamless visual into the existing desert landscape.

“We knew during the design of the new dam that we were going to have to disturb a significant area of this natural arroyo, and revegetation would be a necessity,” said Project Manager Ryan Stubbs. “We typically rely on landscape architects to lead these type of restoration projects, but this time we had an ecologist step in and take the lead.”

The two-week project consisted of seeding and manually-planting 5,000 plantings of regionally-appropriate plant species, native to the arid Chihuahuan Desert.

Because the nature of the stormwater project does not allow mechanized disturbance of the soil due to engineering restrictions, all the seeding and planting was done by hand.

The plant selection was also important. Woody or deep-rooted plant species could pose a risk to the soil stability and structural integrity of the engineered levee and spillway surfaces. Therefore, only bare-root and potted plug species were used.

Some of those plants are century plant, Mexican grass tree, stool, Turpentine bush, giant hesperaloe, yucca (red, banana and soaptree), four-nerve daisy and creosote bush.

EPWater and Arcadis will monitor the area for a period of one year to ensure the revegetation is successful. The key to success can be pinpointed by evaluating seed germination, checking for survival of potted plugs, observing the natural arrival of new plants and species within the basin and through a visual inspection of the overall vegetation ground cover.

Also, to ensure the continued growth of the desert landscape, there will be regular monitoring and manual removal of invasive plant species. Invasive, non-native species can quickly decimate the restoration and could also have adverse effects to the project’s stability and structural integrity.

Gisela Dagnino, Engineering Division Manager, says EPWater will be observing the success of this process for its possible implementation on other major stormwater projects.

“We have to be mindful of the community, but also of the flora and fauna that we may disrupt. I believe our projects can be successful and beautiful without having a detrimental effect on nature.”

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.”

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)
Mon-Fri
Sat-Sun
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.

Video+Story: EP Water crews welcome the river

Bursting with the benefits of a winter and spring’s bumper snowpack, El Paso Water is finally welcoming the Rio Grande.

At long last, water released from Caballo Reservoir on May 31 is flowing into EPWater’s two surface water facilities: the Robertson/Umbenhauer Water Treatment Plant and the Jonathan Rogers Water Treatment Plant, said Water Supply Manager Ruben Rodriguez.

EPWater is expecting 16 weeks of river water delivery. A full supply typically lasts 30 weeks while the drought of 2013 yielded a scant delivery of six weeks.

Usually, water would have streamed into El Paso around March, but record low storage levels at Elephant Butte – 3% capacity – late last year forced a water release delay.

“We went into the winter expecting severe drought levels because of the reservoir conditions that we noticed last fall, and then we end up with a historic snowpack – 200% of normal,” said Scott Reinert, Water Resources Manager. “We haven’t had a 200% normal snowpack in 15 years.”

Photo courtesy EP Water

Last summer, the Public Service Board approved a drought resolution for EPWater, which allows for the expedited startup of drought-relief projects. The utility’s well program was expanded to 21 new and existing wells to supplement El Paso’s water supply, while still responsibly pumping to avoid low aquifer levels.

El Paso relies on both river water and groundwater for its municipal water supply. Groundwater supplies are pumped from the Mesilla and Hueco bolsons. River water is supplied from the Rio Grande, which is primarily derived from snowmelt runoff in southern Colorado and northern New Mexico.

The flow first makes its way into Elephant Butte and Caballo reservoirs, where U.S. Bureau of Reclamation officials then release it each spring for irrigators and other users in Doña Ana County, West Texas and Mexico. A treaty and interstate compact govern the distribution of waters.

Photo courtesy EP Water

This year’s river water supply comes just in time to help EPWater meet its peak demand when water use soars to about 160 million gallons per day.

This period usually occurs in mid-June when temperatures begin to climb. EPWater’s innovative portfolio of water resources, including desalination, water reuse and conservation, help fill gaps to keep faucets flowing.

To maximize El Paso’s supply, EPWater will prioritize water conservation as it has for more than 25 years.

Conservation is a way of life on the borderland, and as a result, the utility has seen total water usage per person decline by 35 percent since 1991.

“Conservation has to be key to sustainability,” said John Balliew, EPWater President and CEO. Balliew added that a tenet of the utility’s water management practices is to be mindful of El Paso’s location in the arid Chihuahuan Desert.

The recent variance of river flows spotlights the unpredictability of river water supply from year to year, Reinert said.

“Even though we may have had a good snow pack this year, it doesn’t last forever,” Reinert said. “The next drought is always around the corner.”

For more info about the river allocation and the processes, visit EP Water’s Facebook or their webpage.

Video: Rio Grande water allocation arrives in El Paso

A quick video from El Paso water, as the Rio Grande is flowing once again.

EPW officials say, “It’s great news for our water supply because we can ease off the pumping of our aquifers and depend on our treatment plants to deliver high-quality, reliable water straight to your tap!”

For more info about the river allocation and the processes, visit EP Water’s Facebook or their webpage.

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.

Video+Story: EP Water updates on water reuse plans, Advanced Water Purification facility

Last week, the WateReuse Association convened in Washington D.C. for a Water Week 2019 Congressional Briefing to highlight how utilities across the country are using water recycling in a variety of ways to benefit their respective communities.

El Paso Water’s Chief Technical Officer Gilbert Trejo was among the main panel presenters, who spoke about the utility’s Advanced Water Purification Facility, piloted in 2016.

With preliminary designs now complete, the utility is one step closer to making the facility a reality.

“I think it’s very exciting for El Pasoans to know that what we’re doing here in El Paso is going to change the water industry,” Trejo said. “The water community knows and understands that these treatment processes treat the water and produce a very high-quality water. It’s a matter of which community is going to be the first one to have absolute trust in their water utility and in the water to drink it. And that’s what we’re about to do here in El Paso.”

Treated wastewater, that already meets safe environmental standards set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), will go through the advanced water purification process to produce a safe, reliable and drought-proof drinking water.

“When our customers learn that millions of gallons of crystal-clean water are being discharged back into the canal or back into the river, the first thing they ask us is, ‘Why aren’t we reusing it?’” Trejo said.

In 2016, EPWater piloted the advanced water purification process. Thousands of water samples were analyzed and reviewed by state regulators. The results demonstrated that safe, high quality drinking water can be produced through the process.

“Water studies and epidemiological studies have shown through history that a multi-barrier approach to water treatment is the best defense in preventing or reducing water-borne disease in communities,” said Dr. Kristina Mena. “And that’s exactly what the Advanced Water Purification Facility does.”

Mena served on an expert advisory panel convened by the National Water Research Institute to review EPWater’s Advanced Water Purification Pilot Facility and is also serving on a similar panel for the State of Colorado. She is confident in EPWater’s approach to advanced water purification. The panel agrees and wrote a strong letter of support to TCEQ for the project.

To help the community understand the need for the Advanced Water Purification Facility, EPWater crafted a multi-faceted, bilingual outreach program that began in 2013 and continues today. The program utilizes social media, media relations and education efforts to help the community understand the quality of water produced and how important this facility is to keep water flowing if river water supplies are limited.

One of the many activities in the outreach program was tours of the pilot facility.

According to EP Water officials, over 300 people have visited the pilot facility and all filled out pre and post tour surveys.

“Prior to the tour, 84% of the people were in favor of this type of project in El Paso. After the tour, 96% of the visitors said they were supportive of the project,” officials said.

Designs for the Advanced Water Purification Facility are expected to be complete in the next 1-2 years. Construction should begin soon after, and the plant is expected to go on-line by 2024.

EPWater is actively pursuing state and federal funding opportunities to lessen the financial impact of the new facility on ratepayers.

“I think we have a utility that is very advanced and very progressive when it comes to treatment of water,” Trejo said. “But most important, service to our customers is No. 1. This project is at the forefront of our mission to provide our customers the highest quality of water for them to drink.”

EP Water’s Certified Water Partner Program Honored by ‘Texan by Nature’

AUSTIN – Texan by Nature (TxN), a Texas-based conservation non-profit founded by former First Lady Laura Bush, announced Monday the selection of the 2019 Conservation Wranglers – including a program by El Paso Water.

“Texan by Nature brings innovation in conservation to the forefront for the benefit of generations of Texans to come,” said former First Lady and Founder of Texan by Nature, Mrs. Laura Bush. “We are honored to showcase the brilliant minds within the conservation field and support their incredible work as official TxN Conservation Wranglers.”

Texan by Nature brings business and conservation together through initiatives that promote stewardship of Texan natural resources.

The organization’s Conservation Wrangler program recognizes innovative and transformative conservation projects across the state of Texas.

Each Conservation Wrangler project models “Return on Conservation” by positively impacting people, prosperity, and natural resources. The TxN team will be working with the projects for 12-18 months providing tailored aid, resources, and visibility.

“Conservation Wrangler applications increased by 100% this year,” said Joni Carswell, President and CEO of TxN. “We are proud of the community’s response and inspired by the continuous work being done across the Lone Star State. The 2019 Conservation Wranglers are posed to positively impact our land, natural resources and people and are prime examples of how we achieve BIG, BOLD, conservation in Texas.”

The six selected 2019 Conservation Wranglers include:

El Paso Water – Certified Water Partner Program
Located in the Chihuahuan Desert, which typically receives less than 9 inches of rain a year, El Paso is a city that has long grappled with water security.

In recent decades, municipal water planning has led to increased resource diversification, expanded water reclamation, passage of conservation ordinances, new plumbing codes for water efficiency in new homes, as well as rebate and incentive programs to cut water consumption.

With these measures in place, El Paso has successfully reduced per-person residential water use by 35%.

To continue their efforts and incentivize water conservation, the city created the Certified Water Partner program with the vision of engaging commercial and industrial customers by raising awareness of cost-reducing water conservation practices and giving positive recognition to businesses for implementing them.

The Certified Water Partner Program is seeking increased visibility to better reach El Paso businesses and spread the message of water conservation to other Texas communities.

Ducks Unlimited – Texas Prairie Wetlands Project
Established in 1991, the Texas Prairie Wetlands Project (TPWP) is a collaborative effort between Ducks Unlimited, Inc., Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Gulf Coast Joint Venture, and the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).

The primary goal is to restore, enhance, and protect shallow, seasonally flooded wetland habitat on private lands along the Texas Gulf Coast. These ephemeral wetlands provide critical wintering and migration habitat for thousands of waterfowl, shorebirds, and other wetland-dependent species, in addition to water filtration and other ecosystem services. TPWP provides cost-share assistance to private landowners and technical advice from partners.

The project has delivered more than 83,000 wetland acres in the region and is seeking additional engagement with landowners, landowning businesses and corporations along the Texas Coast.

Galveston Bay Foundation – Oyster Shell Recycling
Oyster reefs are an important component of healthy estuarine ecosystems, filtering contaminants from the water, protecting shorelines, stabilizing sediment, and providing food and shelter for other species.

Despite their importance, oyster reefs are one of the most threatened marine habitats in the world, with documented losses of 85% globally due to extreme weather and unsustainable harvesting. The Galveston Bay Foundation (GBF) reclaims shucked oyster shells from local seafood restaurants through their recycling program, which are used in restoration activities throughout the Galveston Bay estuary.

Since 2011, GBF has collected over 900 tons of oyster shells, of which over 60% have already been incorporated into reef restoration projects. GBF’s Oyster Shell Recycling Program aims to raise awareness about oyster reef restoration and recruit new restaurant partners in the Houston-Galveston area.

Friends of Rio Grande Valley Reef
Located 13-miles northeast of South Padre Island, the 1650-acre Rio Grande Valley (RGV) Reef is the largest artificial reef off the Texas coast.

Since 2014, Friends of RGV Reef is dedicated to the ongoing habitat restoration of this important fishery by implementing comprehensive science-based management of this Gulf ecosystem. Historically, this low-relief nursery reef was comprised of sandstone, clay, caliche, and associated soft coral cover.

This created valuable habitat for juvenile Red Snapper and other reef fishes. However, this low-relief material had been severely degraded by trawl fishing in recent decades, drastically reducing juvenile snapper survivorship and recruitment. Friends of RGV Reef combat this loss by deploying artificial reefing materials of different concentrations and sizes, ranging from intentionally sunken vessels to concrete rail ties and cinder blocks.

Diverse, complex reef substrate can provide habitat for snapper of all ages and sizes, in addition to habitat for hundreds of other species of fish, invertebrates, and turtles that frequent the reef. Friends of RGV Reef is seeking to raise awareness of this ecologically and economically important reef, and to secure material, financial, and academic support for their restoration efforts.

Oaks and Prairies Joint Venture – Grassland Restoration Incentive Program
In the last century, grassland birds have experienced greater population losses than any other North American avian group, with some species declining more than 90%.

Though many factors contribute to population declines, the primary cause is the widespread loss of quality native grassland and shrub savanna habitat. Introduction of non-native grasses, fire suppression, overgrazing, and cropland conversion have reduced this important habitat to less than 3% of its pre-settlement land area.

Since 2012, in response to these threats, the Oaks and Prairies Joint Venture (OPJV) flagship Grassland Restoration Incentive Program (GRIP) has engaged partners and landowners to restore privately-owned grasslands across the state. GRIP provides financial incentives to landowners for implementing grassland bird habitat practices on their lands, in addition to technical support from partner organizations.

OPJV is seeking to raise awareness of their successful restoration efforts and reach other Texas communities with their message of grassland conservation for bobwhites, songbirds, pollinators, other wildlife, and the Texas citizens who live in and enjoy our natural environment.

Trinity Nature Conservancy – Trinity River Paddling Trail
The Trinity River is the longest fully-contained river in the state of Texas, flowing through 18,000 square miles of watershed and through five major eco-regions. With the support of local municipalities, the Trinity Nature Conservancy (TNC) launched their Trinity River Paddling Trail project in 2018 that will establish a 127-mile paddling trail along the Trinity River.

The trail will provide 7.4 million residents of the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex with recreation, conservation, and education opportunities. This project will create paddling trail connectivity and increase river accessibility, resulting in increased public education and awareness of the importance of the Trinity River and its surrounding ecosystems.

TNC hopes the increased awareness will result in efforts to enhance water quality, in addition to increase conservation efforts along the river. TNC hopes to gain National Recreation Trail designation from the National Park Service. Long-term goals include an extension of the paddling path to reach the river’s terminus into Galveston Bay and the Gulf of Mexico.

TNC is seeking partners, volunteers, and funding for the project.

Texan by Nature 2019 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
• TxN seal of partnership
• Op-Ed piece promoting individual initiative
• Letter of support from TxN leadership
• Content and collateral cross promotion via TxN channels including social media, newsletters, and website

Texan by Nature’s work spans multiple conservation initiatives, including the Conservation Wrangler program, the TxN Certification program, and the Symposia series, which features pollinator initiatives, health and nature research, and the TxN Leadership Roundtables.

TxN officials add, “These programs aim to deliver measurable results by building collaborative, science-based initiatives between individuals, communities, conservation organizations, and businesses.”

Texan by Nature will recognize the 2019 Conservation Wranglers on November 13, 2019, in Dallas, TX at the George W. Bush Presidential Center. This diverse set of projects impacts land, water, habitat, and more, spanning 64 counties and 7 ecological regions.

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.

Op-Ed: What snowpack means to El Paso’s water supply

El Paso has high hopes for the snowpack in southern Colorado and northern New Mexico. Every drop of water counts when your city is in the middle of a long-term river drought.

But a hearty snowpack doesn’t necessarily solve our water supply challenges. Our community’s river supply is dependent on how much water reaches Elephant Butte Reservoir, which is currently at 10 percent of its capacity.

River drought in 2018 resulted in a low of 3 percent capacity at Elephant Butte. Preliminary indications signal a May delivery of river water – two months later than normal.

Rio Grande Watershed

When El Paso Water tracks snowpack, we focus on the precipitation that falls within the Rio Grande Watershed Basin, which extends 355,500 square miles through three U.S. states – Colorado, New Mexico and Texas – and five Mexican states.

The 1939 Rio Grande Compact divides a significant portion of the Rio Grande’s water among Colorado, New Mexico and Texas. The amount of water that states receive depends on how much water is in the river that year. Upstream reservoirs – such as Heron, El Vado, Abiquiu and Cochiti – capture and help manage Rio Grande water resources.

The West has received plenty of snowfall this winter, but to understand what this means for El Paso and Elephant Butte, it’s important to focus more narrowly on the snowpack within our watershed. Snow falling in Denver, Colorado, or even in neighboring Ruidoso, New Mexico, won’t benefit the Rio Grande. However, if snow falls in the mountains near the Wolf Creek ski area in Colorado, or the New Mexico mountains near Taos or parts of Santa Fe – the Rio Grande will gain from the snow melt.

Our Rio Grande water depends on several factors falling into place: snowpack, runoff and soil conditions, and how much water is in storage at Elephant Butte.

Melting snowpack may be affected by factors such as sublimation when warm winds in May blow, transforming snow into water vapor.

Two issues that could affect runoff flowing down into Elephant Butte are flooding in northern New Mexico and seepage losses, whether to dry soils or irrigation canal systems along the Rio Grande Corridor.

El Paso depends on the Rio Grande for about half of its water supply. However, EPWater has experienced severely reduced river supplies in the recent past. We endured 2013 – a year we received 10,000 out of a possible 60,000 acre feet of normal river water supply.

In anticipation

After studying the situation for several months, staff acted to reprioritize Capital Improvement Plan projects as well as expedite certain work to ensure preparedness. As a result, the Public Service Board in July 2018 approved a Drought Resolution, which allows for accelerated procurement for drought-relief projects.

Limited river water means groundwater is at a premium. EPWater maximizes groundwater production by rehabilitating old wells and drilling new ones. To protect freshwater portions of our aquifer, we have applied desalination technologies to certain Lower Valley wells called upon during drought.

We have prepared for this by easing off groundwater production in years when we have a normal river water supply. This helps stabilize our aquifers and prevents over-pumping.

EPWater possesses a reliable portfolio of water resources that we can turn to when one resource is limited, including desalination and water reuse. For many years, water reuse has been an effective water management strategy, whether replenishing our Hueco aquifer with treated wastewater or using reclaimed water for irrigation of parks, golf courses and industry.

We can also count on the Kay Bailey Hutchison Desalination Plant, which has helped us meet our water needs in times of drought. The world’s largest inland desalination plant can produce up to 27.5 million gallons of fresh water per day.

EPWater is prepared to take on drought and prove our resiliency. Even though El Paso faces a shortened river water supply this spring,

EPWater wants to assure customers that we have reliable options. We have built an innovative portfolio of water resources for circumstances exactly like this one.

As always, we will rely on our customers to be prudent and responsible with their water choices because in El Paso conservation is a way of life. For almost three decades, EPWater has seen total water usage per person decline by 35 percent.

Author: John Balliew, P.E., President/CEO – El Paso Water

***

The El Paso Herald-Post welcomes guest columns, open letters, letters to the Editor and analysis pieces for publication, to submit a piece or for questions regarding guidelines, please email us at news@epheraldpost.com

El Paso Water to Assist Furloughed Workers

On Wednesday afternoon, officials with El Paso Water announced plans to assist furloughed workers who have missed paychecks due to the government shutdown.

EPWater will assist any federal worker who may need additional flexibility in paying their bill. Appropriate identification and verification of furloughed status is required so EPWater can suspend water shut-offs and offer payment deferments and/or flexible payment plans.

Affected customers should email customer.service@epwater.org with the following information: a copy of their ID or pay stub to verify they are a federal employee, their account number and a phone number or email to reach them.

They are asked to type “Furloughed worker” in the subject line.

Customers may also visit the customer service center at 6400 Boeing Drive, Monday – Friday, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.

El Paso Water Inspectors Take on Fats, Oils and Grease

El Paso Water’s Kyle Eckert and Luis Velasquez have heard all about the giant ball of grease – weighing 130 tons – that recently threatened to flood London’s streets with wastewater.

The pretreatment inspectors for Environmental Compliance and Industrial Pretreatment want you to know that EPWater is working toward a cleaner city one drain at a time.

Utility FOG inspectors aim to make sure London’s problem doesn’t become El Paso’s by educating restaurant staffs across the city. Their goal is to prevent wastewater blockages by teaching El Pasoans how to properly dispose of fats, oils and grease (FOG).

London’s giant mass – aka fatberg – formed when cooking oil and other fats were flushed down drains. From there, flushed FOG accumulated with other discarded materials , such as wipes and diapers.

The message is simple, Eckert said. “Be informed, be aware of what you are dumping down the drain and how it will impact the

Photo courtesy EP Water

community,” Eckert tells restaurant owners and managers.

Both Eckert and Velasquez have worked at wastewater plants and are familiar with the damage FOG can wreak.

“People want information on FOG,” Velasquez said. “The people we talk to want to know what’s wrong, how it’s wrong and how they can fix it.”

“We work very hard to minimize the impacts to the wastewater system, but we must rely heavily on individuals and businesses taking personal responsibility for what is poured down their drains,” said Sonia Wyatt, Code Compliance Manager.

During an inspection to a popular bakery on the East Side, Eckert trained Velasquez on EPWater’s FOG program, which regulates the discharge, transportation and disposal of FOG. Both checked the bakery’s grease trap to ensure compliance standards had been met.

What they found, though, was a grease trap brimming with fats, food waste and red chile sauce, the kind used for menudo and red chile tamales.

Photo courtesy EP Water

“It can get bad enough that the grease trap or pipe can no longer do its job,” Eckert said.

The FOG inspectors’ message is especially important Inspectors find FOGaround the holiday season when El Pasoans are cooking. The message is relevant year-round, Eckert said. EPWater reminds customers about the consequences of not heeding this advice with the “Defend Your Drains” outreach campaign.

One of the best ways to enforce the FOG message is by passing on the knowledge that comes with the job, Eckert said. It also helps if you have a captive audience, like the students at Ramona Elementary students on a recent visit.

“If you tell a child, they will tell their parents as soon as they get home,” Velasquez said. “They will make sure that their parents are disposing of FOG the right way.”

For more information, visit the EP Water page on FOG.

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