Operator Adding Carbon | Photo courtesy EP Water
While the current heat wave has many running for shade and drinking as much water as possible, some residents have raised concerns about the quality of the water reaching their taps
According to EP Water officials, some customers have recently reached out to them with concerns about their water having a musty taste and odor.
Chief Technical Officer Gilbert Trejo says a combination of hot temperatures and low levels in the Elephant Butte Lake reservoir, which feeds into the Rio Grande, is to blame – creating the perfect atmosphere for algae to grow.
“Switching between water sources like we do in El Paso is something that is unique across the country,” Trejo said. “And it’s complicated. Our operators have to use several tools to make sure the water delivered to your house is safe.”
Officials say that El Paso is fortunate to have two underground aquifers that supply much of the water for our community. In its early years, the city relied exclusively on these aquifers. However, city leadership quickly realized that pumping them exclusively could eventually deplete the groundwater supply.
That all changed in 1943, when the W.E. Robertson Water Treatment Plant was completed to treat Rio Grande water to drinking water standards during the irrigation season, typically March through September.
In a non-drought year, El Paso receives 50% of its water supply from the Rio Grande. And that’s when customers begin to notice.
“This causes a distinctly different taste and odor to develop in El Paso’s water derived from the Rio Grande,” said Angel Bustamante, Water Systems Division Manager. “This problem is normally very short lived. Activated carbon is used at the water treatment plants to absorb these algae -related tastes and odors. In an effort to combat the recent mustiness, we have started to add powdered activated carbon as well. But even if the musty smell and taste are apparent, the water is safe to drink.”
Despite the challenges switching water sources creates, especially in the desert heat, Trejo says El Paso benefits from the diversification of water supplies.
“Use of river water is tremendously beneficial,” he said. “It enables us to preserve our aquifers, giving us sustainability for our community for decades to come.”
Those customers who have questions about their water can call the Water Quality line at 915-594-5733.