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.”