What resources from the Water Research Foundation
did you utilize to assist with water management
As we developed and implemented our plan, I realized the
critical importance of having up-to-date information on in all
facets of water management. The Foundation, and its reports,
and findings were critical to that effort. They have the resources
my team needed to devise and implement our strategy.
However, just as importantly, the Foundation was and
remains an important resource for networking with others
in the industry; experts who can help identify best practices
so that we don’t reinvent the wheel. For us to be successful,
we had to be leaders in the field of water management and
the best way for us to do that was to partner with and take
advantage of the many intellectual and scientific resources
at the WaterRF.
How did El Paso secure community buy-in to its
water management program?
As we formed and implemented our water plan, we
created a Water Conservation Advisory Committee—30
people representing different interests from throughout
the community—who provided
invaluable input. We also launched
an aggressive education program,
which included speaking to
hundreds of different groups,
outreach to the local
media and, in general,
a willingness to openly,
with the community
management. We also
created our mascot,
Willie the Water Drop,
to participate in every
conceivable fair, parade,
etc. to help raise the overall
awareness of water.
We invested the resources necessary
to establish a communications
department that effectively
communicates our key
messages to all our key
constituent groups, not just
during emergencies but on an ongoing basis. As a result,
members of the community have a greater understanding of
the importance of water management and their role in it.
What actions are you considering for the future,
should the drought continue?
Actually, we have already taken the steps we need to
effectively manage our water use. For example, through
our water reclamation and reuse program we are able to
recharge one local aquifer, as well as provide for non-potable
uses. This greatly reduces our summer peak demand. We also
purchased water rights from many area farmers, which allows
us to more than double the amount of water we take out of
the Rio Grande River.
We also are continuing to work with the U.S. Geological
Survey on ground water modeling studies which help us
better understand and manage the Hueco and Mesilla
aquifers. Before we implemented our water management
plan, the water level in the aquifer was dropping 1 to 3 feet
a year (197 feet over the past 100 years). Now, through our
diversification and recharge programs, the aquifer is stable.
Finally, our water desalination plant can produce up to 27.5
mgd of potable water.
The key to all of this is making sure the technology works
and that it is cost effective. We engage in extensive pilot
projects and partner with other experts in the field, including
WaterRF to ensure that we are getting the greatest possible
return on our investments.
What advice would you give other utilities facing
similar drought conditions?
The key is planning. It is crucial to think “Big Picture” and
think about diversification. The time to prepare for water
management is before you have a drought or other water
crisis, not once it arrives.
Also, it is critically important to become active members in
organizations like the Water Research Foundation where
you can learn best practices from others and leverage the
considerable knowledge and experience that exists, both at
the Foundation and from its members. These relationships
can significantly accelerate a utility’s overall ability to design
and implement its water management plan.