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Saturday , October 20 2018
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El Paso Water Hosts Asian Leaders; Sustainability, Resource Management Key Topics

They traveled from Burma, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam to learn about El Paso Water. By the end of their visit, it became clear what the star attraction of their visit was – the groundbreaking Kay Bailey Hutchison Desalination Plant.

On July 9, special visitors from the U.S. Department of State’s International Visitor Leadership Program absorbed an enlightening earful from Water Supply Manager Ruben Rodriguez and Art Ruiz, KBH Superintendent, during their trip to El Paso.

The nine current and emerging leaders from Southeast Asia and their two liaisons came to EPWater to hear more about cross-border water resource management while touring the United States for the international program.

During the foreign leaders’ short-term stays in the U.S., visitors were urged to cultivate business relationships with their American counterparts in four cities. Other cities on their agenda were Buffalo, Albuquerque, and Portland.

Aside from EPWater, visitors also met with representatives of the International Boundary and Water Commission and El Paso County Water Improvement District #1.

Rodriguez presented the visitors with a complete overview of EPWater and its facilities, offering a glimpse of the challenges of being situated within the Chihuahuan Desert.

“I described some of the issues we have had lately with drought conditions and how we have been creative with our water sources – like desalination,” Rodriguez said.

Afterward, Ruiz led the special visitors on a tour of the largest inland desalination plant in the world, which has drawn visitors from around the globe and produced 17 billion gallons of water since opening in 2007.

“They were fascinated with the KBH,” Ruiz said. “They were impressed with its operation, the automation and its success.”

Araceli L. McCoy, executive director of the El Paso Council for International Visitors, accompanied the group during the EPWater tour and said the visitors lavished praise on Ruiz for his professionalism and Rodriguez, who they said helped them to understand the technology used by EPWater that results in a clean, safe product.


Visitors expressed surprise at the size of the plant and how salty water is transformed into clean, clear drinking water, McCoy said.

Both Rodriguez and Ruiz know EPWater left a lasting impression on the visitors, judging by the reactions and questions they were getting on desalination and the environment.

“I hope they concluded [from the presentation] that they have the ability to do something like this in their homeland,” Ruiz said. “The desalination plant is a proven success, and we showed it can be done in the desert. It’s difficult but achievable.”

“I wanted them to know that despite our location, El Paso Water has solutions to the challenges,” Rodriguez added. “We are making sure that we are supplying the water that customers need, and we are moving toward innovative solutions and new technology to boost our sustainability in El Paso.”


Kay Bailey Hutchinson Desalination Plant Marks 10 Years of Innovation

Employees, legislators and industry experts gathered Friday to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Kay Bailey Hutchinson Desalination Plant and its ushering of El Paso Water as a front runner in the industry.

“Given the vast brackish groundwater resources, desalination is an important part of the puzzle that will ensure we have a vital water future for this community, including for our kids, grandchildren and anybody that wants to live here in the future,” said John Balliew, president and CEO of EPWater.

When Ed Archuleta first came to the utility in the late 1980s, El Paso was facing a bleak future in water management – including predictions the city would run out of water by 2009.

Archuleta, former President and CEO of the utility, spoke about the challenges El Paso faced when he first arrived.

“How can you have economic development if people don’t have water,” he said. “Water means public health, water means security, but it also means economic development. This city was trying to find ways to provide economic development, but we had this issue that we were known as the city that might run out of water.”

Since opening shop in 2007, the groundbreaking KBH Desalination Plant has played a pivotal role in building up El Paso’s resiliency to droughts, changing weather conditions and the city’s steady growth. Producing 17 billion gallons of water for El Pasoans since opening, the plant is a key piece of El Paso Water’s water supply strategy and helps protect the fresh groundwater supplies of El Paso and Fort Bliss.

“This is an amazing public-public partnership that stands as a great example to the rest of the arid west and is an essential component of El Paso’s portfolio of water resources to help sustain the thriving local economy and the military operations at Fort Bliss,” said Guy Carpenter, President of the national WateReuse Association.

The KBH Desalination Plant has also become a model, attracting visitors from around the globe – especially from other inland cities facing more frequent droughts and other serious water supply challenges.

“The plant is a unique asset to this community that sets El Paso apart; it is a part of the story of the innovation here in in the city,” Mayor Dee Margo said.

The celebration featured tours of the desalination plant and the new Enviro Water Minerals plant, which will be the first full-recovery desalination facility—taking the waste brine concentrate from the KBH Desalination Plant and turning salts and minerals into commercial products. As part of the resulting process, EWM will produce up to 2 million gallons of water per day for El Paso.

Researchers also convened to share results of work underway or completed at the Consortium for Hi-Technology Investigations in Water & Wastewater (CHIWAWA) research laboratory, which is housed inside the plant.

“The research underway here will shape the future of desalination for the nation,” Archuleta said.

El Paso Water Closes La Placita Street For Repairs after Sinkhole Develops

El Paso Water continues efforts to repair two collapsed underground stormwater drains at the intersection of La Placita and Villa Hermosa streets in west El Paso. The drains collapsed on the evening of July 22, causing damage to several areas of the street.

On Monday, EPWater closed all of La Placita from Villa Hermosa to Westwind Drive until repairs are complete. Surrounding homes and businesses are safe, however EPWater strongly urges residents and onlookers not to cross or go near the barricades.

EPWater is working with nearby apartments and homeowners to ensure safe access to their homes.

To ensure public safety, EPWater is working with a local contractor to replace the stormwater drains on La Placita from Villa Hermosa to Westwind in addition to repairing the street. There is no estimated timeline or costs at this point.

Contractors will work 7 days a week to replace the stormwater drains and pave the streets as soon as possible.

The stormwater drains that collapsed are about 40 years old, and there are hundreds of miles of underground stormwater drains in El Paso. EPWater is assessing the condition of stormwater drains in the surrounding area that may also need repair.

“We apologize for any inconvenience this has caused nearby residents and businesses, and we appreciate their patience while we replace the stormwater drains.” said EPWater President and CEO John Balliew. “We are investigating the use of innovative technologies to minimize disruptions to the neighborhood during repairs.”

La Placita street from Villa Hermosa to Westwind remains closed until repairs are complete.

Public Invited to Town Hall on Regional Water Planning

The H2O4Texas coalition’s statewide tour comes to El Paso for its eighth regional Town Hall meeting this year to promote awareness and dialogue on regional water planning. The event is free and open to the public and is scheduled for Wednesday Oct. 26 at 9 a.m. at the Greater El Paso Chamber of Commerce.

The Far West Texas (Region E) water plan is one of 16 regional water plans developed as part of the state water planning process. The plan addresses the needs of all water user groups in the state – municipal, irrigation, manufacturing, livestock, mining, and electric power.

The event will feature a panel of El Paso leaders who are stakeholders in this region’s 50-year water plan, and the format encourages citizens to voice concerns and ask questions.DSC04938 Event speakers include Jesus (Chuy) Reyes, Region E Chair and General Manager of El Paso County Water Improvement District #1, El Paso Electric President and CEO Mary Kipp, State Senator Jose Rodriguez and El Paso Water President and CEO John Balliew among others.

According to the Texas Water Development Board, the population of El Paso and the Far West Texas region is expected to exceed 900K by 2020 and could rise to 1.5 million by 2070. Because Far West Texas water resources are shared with New Mexico and Mexico, it presents unique challenges in planning to meet water needs for population growth.

“With the river drought expected to continue, we need additional water sources to meet the demands of a growing population,” said El Paso Water (EPWater) President and CEO John Balliew. “The state water plan gives us a framework to work with our regional stakeholders and effectively plan for the future.”

DSC05096With drought cycles, an arid climate and unpredictable Rio Grande flows, EPWater – the largest municipal water supplier in the region – had to first confront these challenges many years ago and shaped innovative programs that resulted in El Paso’s national leadership in conservation, reclamation and desalination. El Paso has reduced water consumption by more than 30 percent over the last 25 years.

For three decades, El Paso has been treating and reclaiming wastewater for irrigation, industrial and commercial uses as well as for aquifer replenishment. And in 2007, El Paso opened the Kay Bailey Hutchison Desalination Plant, the largest inland desalination plant in the world.

In the statewide water plan, which looks out to water requirements over a 50-year timespan, EPWater has proposed several new pioneering projects, to include expanding the desalination plant (from 27 million gallons per day to 42 million gallons per day) and introducing advanced water purification, a process that transforms highly treated wastewater into high quality drinking water – or purified water.

Eventually, EPWater also expects to import water from sources as far as 90 miles away.

While El Paso is by far the largest population center for the Region E water plan and El Paso Water is a singularly significant water supplier, Wednesday’s Town Hall conversation is expected to also encompass water planning for Hudspeth, Culberson, Jeff Davis, Presidio, Brewster and Terrell counties.