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Texas Water Reuse Experts to Meet in El Paso

Water experts from across the state of Texas will gather for the 7th Annual Water Reuse Texas Conference. WateReuse Texas, the Water Environment Association of Texas, and the Texas American Water Works Association are co-sponsoring the event.

Organizers chose El Paso for the conference location, hoping the city’s experience in utilizing water reuse to supplement and diversify water supplies will serve as a learning opportunity for other Texas communities.

Public Service Board Chair Henry Gallardo will give the Keynote Speech and EPWater President and CEO John Balliew will welcome conference attendees.

“Texas communities are demonstrating national leadership with water reuse innovations,” said EPWater President and CEO.  “El Paso welcomes water leaders from around the state and looks forward to sharing how water reuse fits with our past and future water supply strategies.”

WHAT:                 Water Reuse in Texas Conference

WHERE:               El Paso Convention Center |  1 Civic Center Plaza

WHEN:                 May 19, 2017

8:45-9:45: Opening Session featuring EPWater President and CEO John Balliew and PSB Chair Henry Gallardo

10:00am – 4:30pm: Technical sessions

To register for the conference, click HERE.

NMSU Project uses Satellite Technology to Evaluate Southern New Mexico Water Resources

Zohrab Samani, a New Mexico State University civil engineering professor, and his graduate student Pooneh Pahlevani are leading a research project examining water accessibility in southern New Mexico.

The goal of the project, “Evaluating water budget for the Mesilla Bolson Aquifer,” is to develop a hydrologic model that can predict future water storage and sustainability of the Mesilla Valley Aquifer known as the Mesilla Bolson.

Dona Ana County’s groundwater is the Mesilla Bolson, which supplies drinking water for Las Cruces and other small communities in the county in addition to parts of El Paso and Juarez. The aquifer is the lone water source for agriculture during dry years when there is little river flow.

“The aquifer is like a bank account, which is vital for sustainability of agriculture, and quality of life in southern New Mexico,” Samani said. “The aquifer gains water during wet years and loses water during dry years. We have been in drought during the past 15 years, which means we are pulling the additional needed water from the aquifer, and the water level is dropping. There is an urgent need to figure out how the water budget has changed in the past and will change in the future as we face climate change, population growth, drought and land use.”

New Mexico legislators sponsored the project through the New Mexico Water Resources Research Institute.

“The result of the aquifer project has significant implications in the future planning and management of the water resources in our area,” he said. “Our results show that we have been losing water from the aquifer storage during the past 25 years, and the loss has accelerated since 2010. The results of our research show that if serious steps are not taken in conserving water and curtailing the excessive withdrawal the aquifer will continue to deplete and could eventually dry up.”

Author: Tiffany Acosta – NMSU


Crews Continue Expansion of Gateway Pond; Capacity Will Prevent Flooding

Commuters who look to the south while traveling east on Interstate Highway 10 can watch the progress of one the latest El Paso Water stormwater projects.

Just past the Copia Street exit, contractors are expanding the Gateway stormwater detention pond.

Rainfall follows nature’s stormwater system; it flows through arroyos and natural channels and creates ponds and streams that are absorbed by the land. But development obstructs these natural flow paths, which causes flooding during severe rain storms.

Workers completing Gateway stormwater detention pond. | Photo courtesy ECM International
Workers completing Gateway stormwater detention pond. | Photo courtesy ECM International

Because the central neighborhoods of El Paso were developed without adequate drainage infrastructure, the elevated portion of I-10 would block stormwater flows during heavy rain events. This periodically led to freeway flooding in the area between Cotton and Piedras streets and along Gateway West Boulevard.

Resolving the issue is a multi-phase, multi-million dollar problem that included building upstream ponds to capture and reduce the water’s velocity and improving dams that control its release.

The Gateway Pond collects water that might otherwise disrupt traffic by flooding the freeway and adjacent frontage road.

Work on the north side of I-10 began in 2012 with the 18-foot deep “Gateway West” stormwater detention pond, which was originally designed to capture 3.5 million gallons of stormwater flows.

In subsequent years, the pond was lined with concrete, expanded and excavated to its current 50-foot depth.

Work on the opposite side of the freeway began in 2015 with the construction of the 28-foot

Gateway stormwater detention pond off of I-10 west. | Photo courtesy ECM International

deep “Gateway East” stormwater pond.

A tunnel built under the freeway houses a 60-inch equalization pipe that will connect the pond’s two sides.

The project scope expanded when EPWater acquired adjacent properties, and now the east pond, like the west pond, will be 50-feet deep this summer when the project is complete.

The two sides will work as one pond that helps protect I-10 during heavy rainstorms by taking 52 million gallons of stormwater off the street.

Officials with EPWater say the high-profile Gateway Pond expansion is one several drainage improvement projects currently under construction.

Projects are also underway in the central, northeast, and northwest El Paso.

Vinton Snags $7.7m in USDA Funds for Municipal Water System Project

The USDA has awarded the Village of Vinton $7,714,000 in funds for the municipal water system project—$4,805,000 is a grant and $2,909,000 is a low interest loan.

 The project includes capacity buy-in with the El Paso Water system and construction of distribution and service lines that will provide service to approximately 249 households in Phase I. An additional 171 connections are planed for Phase II.

This project will address the arsenic contamination of an existing system that currently serves 40 –50 households and first time water service to others.

USDA officials say Mr. John Perkins, the Area Director for USDA Rural Development will make the official announcement on Wednesday, February 22, 2017 at 4:00 pm, at the Village of Vinton City Hall. Also expected to attend are representatives from the Office of U.S. Representative Beto O’Rourke, Office of State Sen. José Rodriguez, Office of State Representative Joe Moody, and Vinton Mayor Manuel Leos.

PSB Approves FY 2017-18 Budget, Rates and Fees

On Wednesday, the Public Service Board (PSB) approved the El Paso Water Budget for fiscal year 2017-18 for its water, wastewater, reclaimed water and stormwater utilities.

The new budget includes rate and fee increases, which translate into an increase of $4.25 per month for a typical homeowner.

The $463.7 million water, wastewater and reclaimed water budget allows El Paso Water to rehabilitate, modernize and expand systems to meet the needs of El Paso’s growing population. The $55 million stormwater budget will help expand flood control projects, maintain the existing stormwater system and continue to set aside 10 percent of funds for dual-purpose ponds and open space projects.

“As El Paso’s population grows, we must continue to diversify our water supply to serve the needs of our City not just for today but for the next generation,” said EPWater President and CEO John Balliew. “Just as important, we must prioritize projects that reduce flood risk in high-traffic areas and that have the potential to save lives and protect private property.”

El Paso’s population is projected to increase more than 40 percent by 2040. The FY 2017-18 water and wastewater budget will fund extending water lines into new areas, building reservoirs and pump stations, and drilling wells to increase reliability and prepare for growth.

EPWater will also take the initial steps towards increasing the capacity of the Kay Bailey Hutchinson Desalination Plant, acquiring additional land for water importation and beginning to design an advanced water purification facility, which will transform treated wastewater into a safe, reliable drinking water supply.

Infrastructure rehabilitation is an equally important part of the budget. El Paso has more than 700 miles of water lines that are 40 years old or older and half of its wells are more than 30 years old. The budget will fund replacing pipelines and rehabilitating several wells. There are also plans to upgrade plants, reservoirs, the International Water Quality Laboratory and security and information systems.

The stormwater budget carries equally important projects. Several projects identified in the estimated $650 million Stormwater Master Plan have been completed, reducing the flood risk and improving public safety. Central El Paso projects have already created 38 million gallons of capacity for flood control, diverting water from streets and highways.

Improvements will continue in Central El Paso, but in 2017-18 focus will shift to major capital improvement projects in the Northeast, Westside and Mission Valley.

EPW officials say that “even with the proposed rate increase, EPWater remains focused on keeping water affordable for El Pasoans through strong financial stewardship.”

“The water and wastewater rate increase for this year was kept to 7 percent due to efficiencies found by staff. Last year, a 5-year financial outlook for the Utility indicated at least an 8 percent rate increase meet budget goals. Staff also found efficiencies in the stormwater budget, decreasing the operating budget by half a million dollars,” they added via an email statement.

This year’s rate structure will also increase the number of customers who could see their monthly water bills go down.

Customers who use less than 4 CCFS (2,992 gallons) per month will have their water supply replacement charge waived.

An estimated 17 percent of customer bills could be eligible for this waiver in a given month, which could enable conservative water users to reduce their monthly bill by about $10 per month, or $120 per year.  Previously, the waiver was only available to customers who used less than 3 CCFS (2,244 gallons) per month.

The approved budgets and rates will go into effect at the start of the fiscal year, which begins March 1, 2017.