El Paso Water Utilities
El Paso Water Utilities (EPWU) is a good model for water conservation by a large retail water utility. EPWU has undertaken a wide range of activities over many years to reduce water use and water waste. Reduction in per capita water use in El Paso over the past four decades has been dramatic, and the utility continues to work for additional reductions. Of particular note is the EPWU’s success in minimizing water loss in its distribution system.
EPWU serves the City of El Paso, the sixth largest city in Texas (with a population of over 787,000 people as of 2014). According to the 2014 Utility Profile submitted to the State, EPWU provides water to over 217,000 accounts, including wholesale customers. El Paso is located in the far northern part of the Chihuahuan Desert and receives on average only eight inches of rain each year. El Paso draws its water supplies from the Rio Grande and two aquifers, the Hueco and Mesilla Bolsons. El Paso is in the Region E water planning area.
As of 2013, El Paso supplied 112,000 acre feet of potable water to its customers, with approximately two-thirds of that amount coming from the Hueco Bolson, approximately a fourth from the Mesilla, and only 9% from the Rio Grande. El Paso also provides reclaimed water for non-potable use (over 8,000 acre feet per year). EPWU for over 25 years has been injecting treated wastewater back into the Hueco Bolson to augment that water source, and EPWU has a joint brackish groundwater desalination project with Fort Bliss that is currently the largest such facility in the country.
EPWU has had an active water conservation program for a number of years. As a result of a variety of water conservation measures over the past four decades, water use in El Paso has steadily declined from an average over 220 GPCD in the 1970s. El Paso met the five-year GPCD goal in its 2009 WCP (135 GPCD) and has set a goal for 2019 of 130 GPCD. In 2013 the GPCD was 132. The 2011 Region E water plan set a target GPCD for El Paso of 118 by the year 2060.
As reported in its 2014 WCP, the historic five-year water loss experienced by EPWU was only 6.6 percent. The target is to reduce that water loss to 6 percent annually by 2020. This is a very enviable water loss scenario for a major water supplier.
Over the years EPWU has deployed a wide range of water conservation programs and activities. BMPs used have included the following (not a complete list):
These and other BMPs are described in some detail in El Paso’s 2014 WCP.