Q&A with Ed Archuleta, President/CEO,
El Paso Water Utilities
Total Water Management
Water Research Foundation: How has the drought in
Texas impacted your operations?
Ed Archuleta: To be honest, it hasn’t impacted us at all.
Contrary to what people might expect, El Paso, which sits in
the middle of a desert, is doing better than many other cities
that enjoy more plentiful rainfall, like Austin and San Antonio
and the Southwest in general.
What is your water management strategy?
I decided years ago we were going to create a system of
total water management and apply resources accordingly to
address all elements of water management. We had to be
ready for anything, including drought, service interruption
and flooding. We needed to prepare. You can’t just wait until
something happens and say, “What do I do now?”
Conservation has clearly been
a key element in our overall
strategy. Through the years
we have provided rebates
for water-efficient washing
machines, given away 185,000
shower heads and enacted
other programs aimed at
reducing water consumption.
We also implemented a water conservation rate structure
whereby the more water people use, the more they pay per
gallon. Charges are based on the customer’s average winter
usage, so summer bills are higher. These efforts to encourage
conservation have been very successful. In 1990, our 544,500
residents consumed 38 billion gallons of water. In 2010,
despite a population increase of over 200,000, only 37.4
billion gallons of water were used.
So, when I came to El Paso in 1989, it was commonly
thought that the city was going to run out of water in 25
years. In 1991 we started implementing our 50 year water
plan for the city, something which had never been done
before. Over the past 20 years we have aggressively managed
our water use and diversified our water sources to include
desalination (El Paso operates the largest in-land desalination
plant in the world), reuse, and reclamation as well as drawing
water from the Rio Grande River and the Hueco and Mesilla
aquifers. As a result, our per capita use is down 33% and our
aquifers are stable.
Per Capita Water Use
gallons per capita per day (GPCD)
Year 2000 Goal: 160 gpcd
Year 2010 Goal: 140 gpcd
Year 2020 Goal: 130 gpcd
We also now handle all aspects of water management for
the city, including water, wastewater and flooding-related
challenges. After all, storm water is a resource not to be
wasted. Now we manage it in a more sustainable way.
Water Savings Due to Conservation
and Reclaimed Water
231 Billion Gallons Saved
$460 million of Deferred Capital
Needed without established conservation/reclaimed water programs
Production with established conservation/reclaimed water programs