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Home | Tag Archives: rio grande

Tag Archives: rio grande

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

El Barrio del Diablo: FastForward to the Music – A Li’l Band From Texas Says ‘Hello’

All the way from Nottingham, England, Ten Years After had a date with a well-behaved EP audience that got a heavy dose of British-styled blues rock.

But first, the opening band.

Here was a nondescript trio that appeared like local regular guys. Sort of. The lead singer and guitarist wore a sports coat and jeans, his glasses resembling the classic round frames that John Lennon wore in his later years. The bass player had a beard and wore a modest beige-colored cowboy hat. The drum kit brand was Fibes, and rested on a riser that was draped with a colorful sarape.

The logos on the speaker boxes had a small palm tree with the words: Rio Grande.

Without any introduction, the moment they hit their first few notes these three guys punched out some boogie blues music that immediately turned heads and shut up the small talk around me.

Before ZZ TOP became the weird beards: Dusty Hill, Frank Beard and Billy Gibbons – circa 1969
Before ZZ TOP became the weird beards: Dusty Hill, Frank Beard and Billy Gibbons – circa 1969

Harmonizing on tunes like Francine and Chevrolet, they rocked the house with others like Backdoor Love Affair and Just Got Paid. We were witnessing the early look and stripped-down awesome sound of ZZ TOP.

They played such a memorable set, the promoter booked them six months later to headline another EP show, with local band “Gorilla” opening. Tickets for that show were $2. That is not a typo.

It would be the beginning of a decades-long relationship between the little ol’ band from Texas and countless Coliseum audiences (including the Civic Center crowds in 1974, for the Fandango tour.)

The first time I heard Ten Years After’s live version of “I’m Going Home” from the Woodstock soundtrack, I thought I had peed my pants. Alvin Lee’s one minute and five second pyrotechnics in just the intro alone, is nothing short of a guitar clinic.

This 12 minute rock classic is a relentless and frenetic 4/4 time rocker with a ridiculous 119 beats per minute; and entertains the most hardened music critics still out there.

So after witnessing a hot little no-name band light-up the Coliseum stage, one wondered what Ten Years After had in store. It was something entirely different.

tenyearsafterTaking a page from their album at the time, Cricklewood Green, the band walked on and started nice and easy with “Love Like A Man”, creating an ethereal, bluesy atmosphere in the cow barn. Maintaining the vibe into their set with several other slow numbers, the band took their time getting to the rough stuff.

Then, “Good Morning Little Schoolgirl” and “I Can’t Keep From Crying”, turned up the volume to eleven. During one solo, using the mike stand as a slide, Alvin Lee showed the audience his prowess with his trademark Gibson ax.

After killing it at the end of the show with I’m Going Home, the crowd rose to their feet for the encore as TYA gave the lone star state a nod with “Sweet Little Sixteen” ( “Deep in the heart of Texas, and round the Frisco bay”).

The Coliseum had welcomed and cheered on two new acts that had not played EP before, and thanks to the promoter TYA returned two more times. Once more at the Coliseum ’71 and another at the Civic Center in ’74.

The lights went on and as I walked up the ramp from the main floor to the corridor that separated the stands from the exits, I stopped and looked left after something had caught my attention.

At the end of the corridor was a makeshift barrier in front of the dressing room door. From a distance I saw Ric Lee and Leo Lyons leaving. I got closer and waited.

After a minute, Chick Churchill walked out, then Alvin Lee. I reached out to shake his hand and he stopped for a moment. I thanked him for an awesome show and he humbly and quietly said, “Thank you”.

And the little ol’ band from Texas? They continue touring to this day. Those boys were born to boogie!

Next: an impromptu meeting with Ozzy Osbourne and Black Sabbath!

Jose Oswaldo RicoDo you recall any rock shows from that era? Leave a comment! I’d like to hear from you.

José Oswaldo Rico, Guest Contributor

Previous  columns HERE

Video+Story: Rio Grande Water Arrives in El Paso

El Paso received its first allotment of water from the Rio Grande Monday; the first flow of what will eventually total approximately 50,000 acre feet of river water for this season, or 40 percent of total water demands.

Via a Facebook post, EPW Officials said, “The amount of water we receive from the river plays a critical role in our water management strategies. The more water we receive, the less we need to pull from the local aquifers. It allows the aquifers to recharge, which makes us better prepared for any future drought conditions.”

A video shows water reaching the Jonathan W. Rogers Water Treatment Plant Monday afternoon.

In total, the plant will receive approximately 20 million gallons of water in just one day.  This year’s allotment is comparable to last year.

Officials add, “We have seen a steady increase in our total allotments but still remain below pre-drought levels”

According to EPW’s Website, El Paso Water Utilities supplies about 90% of all municipal water in El Paso County.  Surface water is supplied from the Rio Grande.  The Rio Grande flows that are diverted in the El Paso area are primarily derived from snowmelt runoff in southern Colorado and northern New Mexico.   Spring runoff is stored in Elephant Butte Reservoir in southern New Mexico before releases are made for irrigation and municipal use in southern New Mexico and the El Paso area.

The allotment will run from April through the end of September.

Water Returning to Rio Grande, Expected to be in El Paso Area Monday Afternoon

According to social media posts by the National Weather Service in Santa Teresa, Borderland residents should see the river begin to flow once again.

As of Sunday Afternoon, according to the NWS’s post, water was released from Caballo Dam had passed the gauge at Leasburg, but had yet to make it to Mesilla.

Officials added, “The current forecast indicates water reaching El Paso (near Sunland Park) by Monday afternoon, though this might be a little optimistic.”

Earlier this month, forecaster at the National Weather Service put out their monthly Flooding Outlook, which includes snowpack information for the Upper Rio Grande area.

Their tracking indicated that snowpack for the river was running above normal, as was the runoff for both the Upper Rio Grande and the Pecos River Basins.

Those readers who would like to”track” the progress of the water, can do so by checking the hydrographs.

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