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Home | Tag Archives: epwater

Tag Archives: epwater

PSB’s Mena offers health expertise as city, state begin to reopen

As state and local leaders take steps to ease COVID-19 restrictions, Dr. Kristina Mena is helping to shape health guidance needed to reopen Texas and El Paso.

The Public Service Board Vice-Chair for El Paso Water is a renowned expert in human health risk assessment and serves on several advisory panels offering health expertise to devise guidance strategies for Gov. Greg Abbott and El Paso leaders.

The set of recommendations focus on when and how to re-open safely.

Mena, regional dean of the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) School of Public Health’s El Paso campus, was first asked to join a task force assembled from colleagues at UTHealth who took the lead on offering health guidance to the governor. That effort led to another health subgroup at the state level, as well as a local partnership that is addressing COVID-19 testing efforts and personal protective equipment sourcing and allocation in El Paso.

“I feel very fortunate to be part of those conversations statewide and hear the details regarding what types of tests should be implemented and who should be tested,” Mena said. “What I am learning statewide, I am offering that input to inform El Paso.”

Locally, Mena partnered with Emma Schwartz, president of the Medical Center of the Americas Foundation, and Tracy Yellen, CEO of the Paso Del Norte Health Foundation, to address El Paso’s needs and how the community can better respond to the pandemic.

Mena’s work also continues in building a human health risk assessment framework that incorporates various aspects of the novel coronavirus – such as dose response and environmental persistence – and host parameters or measurable characteristics related to exposure and vulnerability.

The assessment will identify factors that drive health risks so that mitigation strategies can be developed.

This is a role Mena has been preparing for her entire career.

Since the 1990s, the environmental microbiologist has contributed her expertise to a human health risk assessment framework on viruses so that transmission mitigation strategies could be developed. Mena also offered her expertise during the 2016 Summer Olympics in Brazil, when waterborne viruses were threatening the health of Olympic athletes.

Photo courtesy EP Water

Recently, Mena’s expertise on risk assessment is being applied toward NASA and International Space Station flight crew missions.

“I have learned so much from this pandemic,” Mena said. “What’s interesting is my whole dissertation work in the 1990s was mitigating the transmission of viruses within communities. Here I am 25 years later, and this is what’s happening.”

Working on these COVID-19 advisory panels has proven invaluable to Mena, not to mention the prized connections she has made.

Mena has worked with a variety of experts in many industries, from renowned medical experts at the state level to hotel, retail and builders association officials locally.

To fulfill a recent request, Mena and UTHealth colleagues led a recent webinar for the construction industry on workplace health guidelines.

“I’m proud of who I work for, and it’s been a great example of why UTHealth has six campuses,” Mena said. “It’s not just about providing educational opportunities for students but during a practical public health crisis we are able to bring educational outreach.”

Mena praised EPWater for being proactive in implementing workplace safeguards early in the pandemic.  “With the novel coronavirus, our world’s focus has primarily been on influencing the host in terms of social distancing to minimize transmission among people,” she said. “We need to remember, though, the importance of the potential role of our environment, such as surfaces, to become contaminated and serve as a potential source of transmission.”

Video+Story: First Montana Vista homes connect to new wastewater system

Thirty-four years. That’s how long Montana Vista resident Abraham Rascon has been hoping wastewater system infrastructure would reach his neighborhood. On Monday April 20, 2020, that wait was over.

“I thank God this day has finally arrived,” Rascon said. “We can now shower with lots of joy knowing our septic tank won’t overfill.”

Rascon was the fifth home to connect to the new Montana Vista Wastewater System, which will bring first-time wastewater service to nearly 800 homes in a first phase.

The project was made possible by $12.9 million in funding from the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) through the Economically Disadvantaged Assistance Program (EDAP) and collaborative efforts over many years between El Paso Water, El Paso County and elected officials.

The 2,400 plus homes in Montana Vista have relied primarily on septic tanks since they are outside the city limits and El Paso Water service area. Rascon says regularly maintaining his tank was logistically and financially difficult, causing serious health hazards. But through the TWDB financial assistance, his now obsolete septic tank has been cleaned and decommissioned.

Photo courtesy EPWater

State Rep. Dr. Mary E. Gonzalez, who represents the area and was instrumental in acquiring the financial assistance for the project, witnessed the connection of the first six homes on Ekery Avenue.

“This day is a testament of what can happen when people come together to help a community,” Gonzalez said. “The residents, community leaders and El Paso Water fought for decades so these folks could have wastewater infrastructure. And we have finally realized it; I’m so grateful.”

Phase I of the project is scheduled to be completed in summer of 2021.

EPWater continues to seek additional funding to begin phases II and III of the project.

For neighborhood construction updates on this project, click here to subscribe to the Montana Vista Wastewater Project e-mail newsletter.

EPWater discovers multiple instances of meter tampering, illegal water connections

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Women make strides in EPWater workforce

As a heavy equipment operator for El Paso Water, Truck Driver Laura Chaparro-Casas is turning heads.

It happens so often, Chaparro-Casas is no longer fazed by the double takes she gets while driving her Freightliner dump truck to and from a job site. What she does notice are the honks and waves from other women when she is spotted behind the wheel of her 5-ton truck.

“I had an instance when I was working on the West Side and was delivering a full load of materials,” Chaparro-Casas said. “An elderly lady came out of her house, with her caregiver, just to give me a thumbs up. It was awesome; she did it because she saw me working in an all-male environment.”

Chaparro-Casas is the second woman to join the ranks of Heavy Equipment Operators at EPWater and is excited about the opportunities at the utility that take her out of an office setting. She had previous careers in newspaper layout design and as a bus driver for Sun Metro.

“There was an opportunity at El Paso Water, and I jumped on it,” she said. “A lot of people ask, ‘How can you drive that big truck and be out in the sun, dirt and climate?’ My answer to them: Work is work.”

Chaparro-Casas hopes to raise the profile of women in male-dominated occupations, such as hers. She urges other women not to be afraid and says women are more than capable of flourishing in these positions.

“Nothing can stop us, only our fears,” she said. “I am going to strive for better because I know other women are watching me.”

General Service Worker Espy Avila is watching Chaparro-Casas and has similar career aspirations.

Espy Avila | Photo courtesy EP Water

Avila is a new addition to the utility’s Building Maintenance department and represents a new family generation working for EPWater.

Dad Jorge Luis Avila is a Truck Driver for Heavy Equipment Operations and mom Olga Avila is a General Service Worker for Stormwater Management.

Avila has also heard the same concerns about working in a tough occupation and shrugs it off, because she loves the outdoors.

Building Maintenance employees work as landscapers, carpenters and plumbers for the utility.

“Everyone keeps asking me if I am sure I want to do this, and I have never been so sure,” Espy Avila said. “There are opportunities everywhere at El Paso Water, and I have learned a lot about the utility and facilities from working here.”

Avila urges other women to be fearless in taking job opportunities. She already knows what she wants to do next.

“My next step is hopefully going to Heavy Equipment Operations,” Avila said. “I want to do what Laura does.”

El Paso Water set to host DiscoverE-Building Curiosity

Next month, El Paso Water is hosting a free, family friendly event called DiscoverE – Building Curiosity.

“We’re thrilled to be able to showcase engineering as an exciting career path for El Paso’s youth,” said April Lopez, water conservation specialist for El Paso Water. “We want to ensure that El Paso and EPWater have a bright future, and that means inspiring students to problem solve and develop engineering interests that can positively impact and contribute to our city’s infrastructure.”

Engineering firms from across El Paso will be showcasing the latest in robotics and technology, thanks to a partnership with EPWater’s TecH2O Learning Center and the American Council of Engineering Companies. Families will get a hands-on experience while manipulating robotics, operating cranes and learning about the region’s watershed and water and wastewater systems.

“The future designers of our world will get a first-hand look at how El Paso engineers are using robotics to improve and grow the city – from the ground up,” EP Water officials added.

In addition, robotics teams entering in the Lego League Challenge at the University of Texas at El Paso will share how they perform tasks and show off their engineering marvels.

The Lego League Competition is designed as a challenge for youth to develop problem-solving concepts to shape a better future using modern-day tools like robotics.

“Visitors can come for the robotics and also stay for popcorn and a free screening of the Lego Movie showing at 12:30pm,” said Lopez. “We will also have EPWater’s award-winning parade float called Water Wars parked in front. It’s modeled after Star Wars-themed Legos and quite impressive to see in person.”

DiscoverE – Building Curiosity will be held February 22 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and all are welcome. For more information, visit www.tecH2O.org or call 915-621-2000.

With $22m investment, EPWater works to enhance customer experience

As technology evolves, so do customers’ expectations for convenience and speed; to that end big changes in technology are coming to EPWater.

“To guarantee our customers a more gratifying and efficient experience,  we are in the initial stages of obtaining a new Customer Information System (CIS) to better respond to our customers, whether they are paying a bill or reporting a leak,” EPWater officials announced Monday.

“We have heard from customers that hold times for customer service are too long and that customers want more options to pay bills. El Paso Water recognizes the urgency of ensuring that our customers’ sophisticated expectations are met.”

Officials share that with this $22 million investment, EPWater is pursuing various technological avenues in customer service to be on-demand and relevant.

“Today’s customers expect more sophisticated choices beyond just a customer service phone line,” officials stated via a news release. “EPWater wants to expand how we interact with our customers beyond just mailing a bill. The goal for the new CIS will be to add multiple communication and service features such as text or chat.”

EPWater wants to offer a full menu of self-service features beginning with their customer portals, where customers can access their account information through multiple devices.

According to the release, customers will have options to pay their bill online and perform a variety of self-service transactions – such as reporting a leak or making payment arrangements – 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Though these upgrades will take a few years, other improvements have been implemented and are making a difference, such as:
  • Customers may request a payment extension through Interactive Voice Response (IVR) without waiting to speak to an agent. With about 5,000 extension requests per month, more than half are now handled through IVR. Recent survey results of these customers showed overwhelming customer satisfaction with the IVR.
  • Calls are recorded for quality assurance and quality control purposes. Recordings are used to train staff to improve the customer experience and departmental performance.
  • Customers currently have the option to request an English-speaking or Spanish-speaking agent.

The new system will offer modern analytics and reporting to allow EPWater to track our performance and measure customer satisfaction. This data will help us know how to better serve our customers.

“EPWater knows that investing in a new CIS not only improves efficiency, it pays big dividends in customer validation and satisfaction. Please bear with us while we make these necessary improvements. Ultimately, the CIS will help us build a stronger relationship of trust and loyalty between EPWater and our customers,” officials added.

When the river stops, the maintenance begins

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Greek, Roman technology still at work today with EP Water

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

EP Water: Conservation efforts turn to commercial, industrial, and municipal users

In 1985, the leadership of El Paso Water knew that residents of El Paso would have to significantly reduce their daily water use for the sake of long-term water sustainability.

At the time, each El Pasoan was using 205 gallons per person per day.

The City of El Paso adopted the Water Conservation Ordinance in 1991, which made wasting water a violation.

Over the years, the utility has provided a variety of conservation incentive programs, and residents took advantage of rebates for water efficient toilets, low-flow showerheads, and replacing grass turf with low-water use landscaping. Plumbing codes also were changed to ensure new homes integrated water efficient fixtures.

El Pasoans limited their watering to three days of the week and began watering before 10 a.m. and after 6 p.m. in the hottest months of the year.

Today, residents are using 128 gallons per person per day and have reduced total water consumption even though population is larger.

To achieve continued reductions, EPWater seeks to reduce water consumption among commercial and institutional customers. Work is already underway with targeted sectors, including restaurants, municipal buildings, and apartment complexes, to name a few.

“Residential customers have truly changed the culture of water usage and have brought us this far in our conservation efforts,” said Anai Padilla, Water Conservation Manager. “But the next logical step is to work with our commercial and institutional customers.”

Targeted approach

EPWater conducted an independent study of commercial and institutional customers to understand water consumption patterns and prioritize sectors for water efficiency improvements.

As an example, the study showed that schools and government buildings make up 8% of EPWater institutional accounts but use 19% of water.

As a result, the Certified Water Partner Program was born. Hundreds of local restaurants were invited to participate in a free water efficiency audit to help them reduce consumption.

The program was launched in 2017 and now has 44 certified restaurants.

“To qualify to be a Certified Water Partner, a restaurant must demonstrate best practices in their kitchen equipment and appliances, in their restroom faucets and toilets, any applicable landscaping and washing machine or laundry service,” said Dawn Walker-Hughes, Water Conservation Technician. “Plus they must also meet responsible practices in fats/grease disposal that protect our wastewater systems.”

Moving forward

The next priority for improved water efficiency was City of El Paso buildings. Over the last year, more than 50 city facilities received water audits. The zoo, four libraries, six police facilities and 24 fire facilities met the standard.

Because many older libraries and police buildings did not meet best standards for water efficiency, EPWater developed an agreement to provide the City of El Paso with a $25,000 grant to assist them in adjusting, repairing or replacing inefficient plumbing fixtures identified in the audit.

“This grant money will allow the city to improve water efficiency where it’s needed,” said Lisa Rosendorf, Chief Communications and Government Affairs Officer. “This will help them save water and money for the city.”

Over the next year, EPWater will continue auditing City buildings, including recreation centers, Sun Metro facilities, the airport and more.

The water savings achieved through this program will help El Paso meet its conservation goals for the future. Click here for more information.

Video+Story: New Simulator Trains EP Water Heavy Equipment Operators

Frank Rittel, Heavy Equipment Training Supervisor, loves training EPWater employees on a new simulator, and it shows.

From the vehicle’s vibration to the controls, it feels exactly like a loader or a backhoe. Imagine training on a simulator, then sliding into the seat of the real thing at El Paso Water five weeks later, confident in your ability to operate heavy equipment.

“Our trainer is very enthused about training employees on the heavy equipment simulator,” said Martin Noriega, Stormwater, Fleet and Building Maintenance Division Manager. “Anytime you have a trainer with that kind of enthusiasm, you know the employees will respond and take it seriously.”

“We get to teach employees the correct way to safely and efficiently operate heavy equipment,” said Rittel, who has 40 years’ experience. “I get the satisfaction of seeing employees better themselves and overcome fears.”

Once EPWater received the training equipment at the Fleet Maintenance Facility on Pan American Drive, Rittel made it his business to know the ins and outs of the heavy equipment simulator.

“I have logged 10 hours on this machine,” Rittel said. “It’s just like real life. It teaches you operational techniques. You learn how to operate the vehicle in a safe, efficient manner.”

The simulator grades trainees as they navigate through common challenges they would experience in the field. Not only does the simulator save the utility in equipment, mishaps and fuel costs, it also opens a door for hundreds of EPWater employees who would like to move up the ranks and train as heavy equipment operators, who are always in demand, said Alan Shubert, Vice President of Operations and Technical Services.

Photo courtesy EP Water

“We can take workers who aspire to become heavy equipment operators and train them effectively at a low cost,” Shubert said. “This is part of our cross-training initiative and safety program at El Paso Water. We want employees to practice and become more skilled in a safe environment.”

Rittel agrees that safety is paramount at the utility.

“We don’t have to put anyone in a vehicle to learn all of the maneuvers to successfully do a job,” Rittel said. ”

Coming here, they will learn the right way to operate on the simulator, and they will see their errors on the computer – not physical errors to a piece of machinery or worse, to individuals.”

Operating heavy equipment is not for everybody, Rittel said, and the simulator allows the utility to see who is capable of being an

operator before sliding into a vehicle.

“We need to make sure that we keep our employees safe, the public safe and that we have operators who are professionals out in the field who know what they are doing,” he said.

EPWater Celebrates 25th Anniversary of Jonathan Rogers Plant

Nearly three decades ago, the area’s aquifers were being pumped heavily to meet growing demands, and El Paso Water learned from several engineering studies that El Paso was at risk of running out of water by 2030 unless major changes were made.

The utility began an aggressive conservation program to reduce water consumption, expanded water recycling and constructed a new water plant to increase the use of river water.

The then-new plant added 40 million gallons of treated river water to the system and helped reduce the strain on underground sources. It was named in honor of  four-time El Paso mayor and U.S. Army Veteran 1st Lt. Jonathan Rogers.

“As the population grows, so has the demand for water,” said Water Plant Superintendent Mike Parker. “This plant has been there to offset some of those demands, and it will continue to do so.”

In 2002, the plant was expanded to produce 60 MGD, further preserving underground supplies for future use.

Photo courtesy EP Water

As El Paso Water celebrates the 25th anniversary of the Jonathan Rogers plant, officials say the facility is an example of “how each plant not only serves the community, but also helps to protect other valuable water resources.”

In order to treat river water, the state-of-the-art facility was designed with granular activated carbon filtration and an ozone disinfection system.

The Jonathan Rogers plant was a pioneer on the frontier of the developing ozone technology, which is now known for being highly effective in removing bacteria and assuring the quality and safety of drinking water.

“The equipment and technology used to produce ozone at the plant is one of the greatest features of the plant,” said Frank Regalado, Water Plant Assistant Superintendent.

Currently, the plant is in the process of replacing the system for the latest model in a $17 million project upgrade scheduled for completion in 2019.

“I look forward to the new streamlined system and its increased efficiency in disinfection,” said Regalado.

Since 1993, the Jonathan Rogers plant has been transforming river water into drinking water, and it holds a special place in the hearts of many who work at the plant. Parker remembers the excitement of his first day at the plant. “It was new, it was innovative for the utility, and the excitement was in the air.”

Several employees of the plant have been there from the beginning and take pride in the facility.

“I’m proud to teach the newest of our employees the technology that we use at the Jonathan Rogers plant to be able to deliver high quality water to our community,” said Regalado.

EPWater, Project Amistad, City of El Paso Partner for ‘AguaCares’

Leaders from El Paso Water, Project Amistad and the City of El Paso gathered Thursday to announce a new customer assistance program called AguaCares.

The program officially launches January 2 and will focus on helping elderly, low-income customers who struggle to pay their water and wastewater bills.

Many customers are struggling to meet basic needs. Every month, EPWater is forced to disconnect thousands of customers for non-payment. In 2017, more than 15,000 customers were disconnected at least once; more than 5,000 customers were disconnected more than once; and more than 500 were disconnected four or more times.

EPWater partnered with Project Amistad to formalize the AguaCares program, which will help keep services on for customers who qualify.

“We strive to provide reliable, high-quality water services to all El Pasoans,” CEO and President John Balliew said. “The AguaCares program will be a valuable tool we can deploy to help our customers in need.”

The El Paso City Council on Tuesday approved action to contribute seed money in the amount of $50,000 to help launch the program.

“The seed money is part of a Memorandum of Understanding agreement with El Paso Water, which supports some of our most vulnerable members of our population to maintain a basic need,” Mayor Dee Margo said. “This is a wonderful partnership, and I encourage the community to support this much-needed program.”

Under a contract agreement between EPWater and Project Amistad, EPWater will refer customers in need to Project Amistad. The agency will determine qualification and offer services to include money management counseling, conservation support, payment plan arrangements and emergency payment assistance.

“Here at Amistad, we want to help EPWater customers who are underserved and are on the verge of being disconnected from water services,“ said Andrea Ramirez, Project Amistad Chief Operating Officer of Social Services. “We are asking the community to assist us by donating and raising funds to maintain support for AguaCares.”

Currently, the program is in a developmental stage and is in critical need of donations. Officials are asking El Pasoans to remember Project Amistad on El Paso Giving Day – November 15. Donations to Project Amistad will be directed toward the AguaCares program.

“Our region’s only community-wide day of charitable giving is held annually on November 15, and donations as small as $10 are accepted,” said Paso del Norte Foundation Director of Development Anna Aleman. “Since its inception in 2016, El Paso Giving Day has raised more than $300,000 for 165 non-profit organizations in our city.”

Additional fundraisers will be held in the coming months to continue to build up the program.

To donate to AguaCares on El Paso Giving Day (November 15), follow this link. To give year-round, click here. For more information on the program, visit the AguaCares website.

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.

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