At their 9/12/12 meeting, the Public Service Board heard from Dr. Bill Hutchison about the current and future availability of water in the EPWU service area. Chris Roberts' summary of that report was published in yesterday's El Paso Times. (Be sure to read the online comments.) The Times editorial board offered their opinion today: Water: Ahead of 'savings' game. Question is: Are we really ahead of the 'savings' game? In an email to Roberts shared with elpasonaturally (with permission to publish), PSB member, Dr. Rick Bonart, offers this bit of cold water in the face:
I think you missed a couple of key points from Hutchinson's
1. Importation of water isn't a done deal. Texas legislature
and courts haven't completely resolved the issue. As he stated (
and referenced in his book) our 50 year water plan is subordinate to water
district management. They will determine the number of wells and
the amount of water that can be pumped. As a policy maker it
makes me uncomfortable not to be in complete control here.
2. There is an ecosystem that exists between the river, the
fresh water in the bolsons, and the brackish water. Over pumping the bolsons
has drawn brackish water into some fresh water wells by the airport and taken
them out of production. You correctly reported the brackish wells along loop
375 have dual purpose: to provide water for the desal plant and to help
intercept the flow of salt in order to protect the fresh water
wells. That is theory. Furthermore, from his book . . . it’s not
clear what effect wholesale pumping of brackish water has
on aquifer recharge. Will industrial scale pumping slow aquifer recharge? It's
all interconnected. During the PSB strategic planning session last
year we agreed to do a chloride or solute model to (as proposed in his book) to
3. The 50 year plan calls for 28k acre feet of
reclaimed water use per year. That's extreme. The cost of production and
distribution are off the chart. Malcom Pirnie gave a presentation the same
day as Hutchinson. They came up with an effluent to potable water reuse
for 11k acre feet of water at Bustamante. The cost is $11M/ year. This
translates to $22 / CCF. Well water by comparison is about 37 cents.
4. You are correct the economics of water will be a limiting
factor before we run dry. We have more land than water. Where we develop and
how much we develop needs to be addressed in a water use budget. The 50 year
water plan details how much water we get for municipal use. It doesn't detail
how we use it. When you talk about smart homes and reducing per
capita water use below certain levels there is a point of diminishing
returns. When people use too little, the utility has to raise prices to
keep revenues up to pay for the system. The notion that conservation
will stave off water shortage is correct, but forcing people to third world
level water restrictions while incurring higher costs for water
will negatively impact our ability to attract industry as well as people’s
desire to live here.
5. Last year we used 114k acre feet of water. The 50 year
plan estimates we have about 140k acre feet locally. That's 26k to spare at the
regions current population. At 130gal/person/ day each 5% addition to the
region’ s population requires an additional 5 k acre feet. So we can add
about 175,000 more people by my calculation to importation. That's not a long
We're all in this together, it's not enough to just plan for
how much water we can get, but how we will use it. Sustainable low cost water
will be the economic and life sustaining common denominator for our
By the way, here is the slide show from Hutchison's presentation to the PSB:
"The Lion Star Blog by Jaime Abeytia: Dear City Officials - Fix Parks & Rec PR Issue: Whenever I feel strongly about an issue having to do with the city, I usually pick of the phone and call the offices of almost every city re..." Thank you, Brother Jaime! I particularly liked this comment of yours: "I don't know about other bloggers in town because I haven't aske, but Iam onmost media lists in town despite the fact that I am not a journalist. They understand the interface we have with the community." [Emphasis is mine.] I also loved this comment: "Sorry Wayne, you don't get to decide who is and who isn't media. Your title as I understand it is Public Relations Director. It's not Director of Communications with Whoever-The Hell-You-Arbitrarily-Decide-is-Media." I love to give 'em hell - but I can't give it like this. A hat tip also to David K. over at Refuse the Juice who posted this on 9/21: http://refusethejuice.typepad.com/thinkaboutit/2012/09/a-blog-post-you-should-read-react-to.html
Mr. Thornton did deign to put me on his official "press" list for press releases. He joins others at City Hall who had never had such problems with the "interface [that I have] with the community": Neighborhood Services, Economic Development, Planning, several City Representatives. What is disgusting is that he had to be forced to do so.
Tomorrow morning, Saturday, September 22 plan to hike
to the only Tin Mines ever in the United States. They are located in the
northeast Franklins. The hike begins at 7:30 a.m. Meet in the parking lot of
Chuck Heinrich Park. (Map)
Just turn off MLK onto Jon Cunningham which dead ends into the parking
lot. This really is an easy hike with
an elevation gain of only 935 feet. I'm rating it moderate because it is 6.5
miles round trip and takes about 4 hours. The trail is good. The short climb to
the mine entrance is a short scramble.
I'm excited to see so many hikers have signed up for this
hike at the El
Paso Hiking Meetup site. This is a great hike and definitely one everyone
should do not just for recreation but for learning something about the geology
and mining history of El Paso. Remember, we will be in the State Park. There's
a $5 per person fee which I'll collect upfront. If you have a State Park Pass,
please just write down the name and number on the pass and give it to me. This
way we can expedite entrance fees and not spend more time than necessary at the
Iron Ranger pay station. If you bring your dog, please be sure the dog is on a
leash. This is so critical as there is always the possibility of running into
Be sure to bring plenty of water (2 liters at least and more
for your dog) and a hardy snack. (Hobbits will need elevensies as well as
second breakfast.) Wear sturdy hiking shoes/boots. Bring a flashlight. You
will be able to walk into the mines - but you will need illumination.
Hike BEGINS at 7:30 not 7:35 or 7:40. Please be prompt. You
can contact me at this email address or at 915-525-7364.
The El Paso
Tin Mining and Smelting Company operated in the northeast Franklins
from 1909 until 1915 when it was shut down for lack of productive ore. The principal mineral was cassiterite. UTEP’s Art Harris wrote: What most of us
don't know is that cassiterite, the major ore of tin, is rare in the United
States and Mexico, and we are reliant on sources in Malaya, Bolivia, Indonesia,
Zaire, Thailand, and Nigeria. One of the
few sources in the United States was located in the northern Chihuahuan Desert,
on the eastern side of the Franklin Mountains. These tin mines were founded in
1909 and worked until 1915. However, during this time span, only 160 100-pound
pigs of tin were recovered [a “pig” is a smelted block of the crude metal], and
the mines were abandoned as uneconomical. At least 27 shafts and trenches were
dug. Today, these lie within the Franklin Mountains State Park, presented to
visitors as part of our regional history.”
If you are really interested in the history and geology of
the Tin Mines, there is a very informative 1901 publication by the U.S.
Geological Survey that you can read online.
Know that, while we are on the trail, autumn will
begin. Fall for 2012 begins in the Northern Hemisphere at 8:49 a.m.
our time. You might want to check out a future hike to Devil’s Hall
in the Guadalupe Mountains. We always schedule that for Celebration of Our Mountains to coincide
with the brilliant fall colors of the leaves.
Get your friends
and family outdoors in this beautiful part of the Chihuahuan Desert. Forward
this message to them and suggest that they subscribe.
This email message
is written and published by Jim Tolbert who takes sole responsibility for the
content of the letter. To subscribe or unsubscribe, just reply to email@example.com
and say “Unsubscribe Hikers”.
tax-free dollars would probably tempt me to divulge your email address.
However, know that
your privacy is safe with me . . . Nobody has offered me the million
The El Paso Hiker
E-Letter Volume 2, No. 25, September 21, 2012
I routinely get press releases from several City of El Paso Departments - both for my newman park blog and my elpasonaturally blog. Associated with both blogs are two e-letters that people subscribe to: elpasonaturally and Hola Vecinos, the Newman Park Association and friends letter. Today, Mr. Wayne Thornton, Public Relations Director for the City's Parks and Recreation Department, refused to put me on his press release distribution list because I'm "not media"/"not press". I wouldn't have thought to have asked him about it except that a reader of my neighborhood association letter asked why I had not included the Arts in the Park event this weekend sponsored by the Parks Department. I didn't because I hadn't heard about it. I certainly would have promoted this event at Memorial Park, if I had known. Apparently, I won't know about future parks and recreation events because I'm "not media"/"not press" according to Mr. Wayne Thornton, who by the way writes a delightful column for the El Paso Times and who, therefore, should have a stronger value of freedom of the press. I not only think that the Parks and Recreation Department's refusal is wrong - it is wrong on so many levels. First, I'm a member (appointed by City Council) of the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board. For no other reason, you think that I would receive the courtesy. Next, other City Departments have no problem including me. Third, as a citizen (and, yes, as someone who publishes and distributes to subscribers, i.e., PRESS), my civil rights have been violated not to mention the slander involved. Finally, if this matter isn't resolved to my satisfaction, I believe that the Open Records laws of the State of Texas have been violated and that the Attorney General of this State should become involved. To think - all I wanted to do was to promote a Parks event and help get the word out to a wider audience. Silly me. Jim Tolbert www.elpasonaturally.blogspot.com www.newmanpark.blogspot.com Publisher of elpasonaturally and Hola Vecinos
Something really dramatic happened at Wednesday’s don’t miss
PSB meeting: it was disclosed by a representative of the consulting group
Malcolm Pirnie/Arcadis that water could be provided to the Rio Bosque Wetlands
Park now! For $440,000! No permit
Currently, EPWU (our
water utility) is dumping 11,000 acre feet of water back into the hands of the
El Paso County Water District #1 yearly from the Bustamante Waste Water Treatment
Plant. So you know just one acre foot is 325,851 gallons of water. Just do the
math. 11,000 acre feet of water is approximately 3.6 billion gallons of water/year! Conservatively, the Bosque needs 3,500 acre
feet and that’s not taking into account how much would be lost to evaporation,
transpiration, and aquifer recharge. Whatever – it’s water that could be
available now for a $440,000 “fix” according to Fred Bloomberg who presented
Pirnie/Arcadis feasibility study for supplying water to the Bosque – a study
which seemed at first to focus on a more complicated scheme involving the
Bustamante and Jonathan Rogers treatment plants.
When I say that the water utility is dumping 11,000 acre
feet of water back into the hands of the water improvement district, I mean
that it is giving that water to them for free. Yet, when it was disclosed that a simple
$440,000 fix would provide the Bosque with the water it sorely needs now, CEO
Archuleta said that the Rio Bosque would have to pay an estimated $1Million per
year for the water. Let’s see now. We are currently giving 11,000 acre feet of
water to the water district for free – that’s $7.7Million in water asset we are
giving away – and we want to charge for 3,500 acre feet that we are currently
dumping. This is akin to a poor beggar coming to someone and asking for a third
of their garbage and being told that he must pay for what will be dumped for
nothing anyway! Thank heavens for Mayor John Cook who pointed out that the EPWU
would be charging the Bosque for water that it is giving away to the water
district for free now!
The larger project involving the Bustamante and Rogers
Treatment plants has, according to Malcolm Pirnie, a $78Million price tag. Amortized at 4% for 20 years the cost would be
$5,743,000/year. That’s $114,860,000 total. You wouldn’t want to do this but . . . $440,000
amortized at 4% for 20 years is only a little over $32,000 per year.
EPWU CFO, Marcela Navarette, stated that the WID was doing
EPWU a favor by taking the 11,000 acre feet even if the water district turns
around and sells that water downstream. A favor! El Paso City parks alone took
5,000 acre feet of water this year. (Imagine that number when all the new park
ponds are completed and more are added as hinted to City Council by City
Engineer, Alan Shubert.) EPWU got about 27,000 acre feet of water from the Rio
Grande this year. (They have rights to 70,000 acre feet but there’s a drought
you will recall.) So Parks and
Recreation uses almost one-fifth of the total river water allowance this year
and now plans extra irrigation this winter because of a program to over-seed
with rye grass. That 11,000 acre feet of water we give away to the WID for
nothing (and the WID then re-sells) would sure come in handy.
Here are some more numbers to swallow. In an earlier elpasonaturally
post, it was pointed out that, if only El Paso would help the Bosque be all
that it can be, it would mean $18Million in eco-tourist trade based on results
at the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico. Read Item #3
of the Headwaters Economics fact
sheet on the economic benefits of New Mexico’s natural assets. So, for $440,000, El Paso could be bringing
into its economy $18Million smackers a year!
The good news – PSB members are ready to discuss the
$440,000 fix at their upcoming Annual Strategic Planning meeting scheduled for Thursday
and Friday, October 11 and 12 at 8:00 am at the TecH2O Center. (Map) Put these dates and times on your calendar.
Bottom line: there is just no reason not to “fix” things now
so that the Bosque immediately gets the yearly water supply it needs. The fact
that there has been resistance from the top brass of the EPWU as shown by
foot-dragging, elaborate and costly engineering to distract the public from the
real easy and cheap fix along with never divulging the truth to the Open Space
Advisory Board that has asked and asked leads to one inescapable question: What’s
the deal? What’s the undisclosed deal that seems to have been made with the
water district? Inquiring minds want to
know. And, cabal or no cabal, what the heck is the matter with supplying water
now to the Rio Bosque (a potential $18Million asset for El Paso) when that
water is literally going down the drain to the Water Improvement District for
free? I’d love to hear from Ed
Archuleta, John Balliew or Marcela Navarette. What’s the deal?
By the way, one Open
Space Advisory Board member gave this comment about the easy fix for the Bosque:
“We [the Open Space Advisory Board members] were not told about the cheaper
$440,000 project cost when Malcolm Pirnie met with us in August nor that
there was no need for permitting to do it. Correct information
has either been withheld from or spun at the Open Space
Advisory Board.” Why? What’s the deal?
The Open Space
Advisory Board advises City Council. What does the EPWU not want your elected
representatives to know? There’s more to interactions with the EPWU than just
land sales so it takes more than just the City’s CFO and Deputy City Manager to
gain total transparency of the EPWU’s actions. When EPWU can’t be straight with
OSAB, a pair of eyes for City Council, one wonders whether anything the Blue
Ribbon Committee recommends will ever be totally successful.
And, remember that this coming Monday (September 17) the
Mayor’s Blue Ribbon Committee will meet at 8 a.m. in the City Council chambers.
The Committee still needs to do all that it was created to do. Read
the blog post. There are some very critical questions yet to be addressed including Ted Houghton’s questions about water districts and water
importation and Charlie Wakeem’s about open space and the still inadequate way
inexpediency was addressed in the most current proposed resolution. The Mayor’s
agenda looks as if the Committee can complete its tasks if the will is
there and no inappropriate force is applied to oppose such a closure.
Finally, know that the El Paso City Council is having a
special meeting this coming Monday, September 17, at 10 a.m. in the 10th
Floor Conference room to decide whether to ban plastic shopping bags, charge a
fee, or enhance recycling. The agenda
has an attachment about the issue.
If you are able, there are 3 big reasons to attend tomorrow’s
Public Service Board Meeting at the El Paso Water Utilities Building 1154
Hawkins Blvd. (Map)
at 9 a.m. :
First there is Item 13 on the agenda.
Dr. Bill Hutchison will give a presentation on the El Paso Municipal Water
Supply: Availability, Development and Management. Read the attachment
to the agenda regarding his bio and background with the water utility and his
expertise. (BTW, if you use Chrome as your web browser, you will not be able to
open any EPWU attachment. You will have to switch to Internet Explorer. I do
not know how well other browsers work with the site. EPWU staff does not seem
willing to make their site more user friendly to all El Pasoans.) In May 2006,
Dr. Hutchison published his doctoral dissertation written at UTEP under the
guidance of Dr. John Walton. I understand that Dr. Walton will be in attendance
at tomorrow’s PSB meeting. CEO Archuleta has asked Hutchison to give an
overview of regional water resources, groundwater modeling and interpretation,
discuss the Far West Texas Water Plan, water districts and their authority,
regional modeling and plans for our future.
The issues really are how much water do we have and how much
can we count on in the future especially in the context of continuing drought,
population growth, continuing sprawl and the impact of global warming and
climate change. A good resource to understand the impact of climate change on
El Paso is a presentation given by NOAA and National Weather Service
meteorologist and forecaster, David Novlan, gave to the Trans-Pecos Chapter of
the Texas Master Naturalists last Thursday evening. You can view
the slide show that accompanied his talk. Although you don’t have the
advantage of his talk, you can learn much by carefully studying each frame.
Part of the EPWU strategy is to begin importation of water
from areas east of El Paso in the near future. Because of water shortages all
over the state, region, nation and world, pushback from local authorities is
going to make importation harder not easier. At the last Mayor’s Blue Ribbon
Committee, Ted Houghton made exactly that point. One hopes that he will be
heard out about the matter. Witness the politics
in Milam County, Texas. The authority of water districts will trump
water use plans. Witness the problem in Odessa, Texas.
to allow New Mexico farmers the right to pump groundwater near the Rio
Grande which will drain what comes to El Paso and the rest of Texas are making
their way through the courts. For its part, New Mexico is struggling with
many of the same issues and water wars are shaping up over the Colorado River
water. And, let’s not forget Chihuahua.
Bottom line: Dr. Hutchison is a must hear. Let’s hope that
he talks straight and does not try to bend things for the EPWU official line.
Water is scarce. That scarcity is growing. We need to speak openly and honestly.
Next on the agenda is Item 14, a presentation on the Rio
Bosque Wetlands Park by John Sproul. The Bosque is a prime example of things
just not making sense – a sign of back room deals and water arithmetic just not
checking out. Effluent is treated at the EPWU’s Bustamante plant.
About 7,800 acre feet of treated effluent water per year which could go to the
Bosque gets dumped back into a drain controlled by the Water District and never
makes it to the Bosque. (Once in a drain or canal of the Water District, the
water belongs to the District.) Although the EPWU purchases river water from
the Water District, this treated effluent (which is not river water of course)
goes to the district as a freebie. And that’s just the start. The 7800 acre
feet is what could go the Bosque. The average output from Bustamante
Waste Water Treatment Plant averages 28 MGD (Million Gallons per Day).
Purple pipe water goes for $.96 per Ccf (a Ccf is 100 cubic feet, or 748
gallons). (28,000,000 MGD/748 Gal) X $.96 = $35,935/day. That’s
quite a windfall that the Water District gets for free! Why?
Also to divert water from the Bustamante directly to the
Bosque requires a modification of a permit with the Texas Commission on
Environmental Quality (TCEQ). (To see the permit go to the Central
Registry Query. Type in Bustamante for Regulated Entity and select
wastewater for the program. Leave all other fields blank. When the
Bustamante WWTP's information comes up on the screen, scroll down to the link
for permit number WQ0010408010. This link will take you to a page from
which View Permit allows you to download the permit.) Changing a permit may
allow the TCEQ to add more requirements and the EPWU in the past has expressed
that they don’t want the hassle. Or is it a hassle? Many believe that
simple political persuasion will make a change of the permit easy. So, why
can’t the Bosque get water and why is there seemingly no effort to get water to
them from the Bustamante and, instead, to dump water back into canals and
drains controlled by the Water District as a free gift to the District?
Which brings us to the third big reason to attend the
PSB meeting tomorrow. Item 15 is a presentation by Malcolm Pirnie/Arcadis on
the feasibility of providing reclaimed water to Rio Bosque and on the potential
for a potable reuse project using effluent from the Roberto R. Bustamante Wastewater
Treatment Plant and the Rio Bosque Wetlands. See the Malcolm
Pirnie/Arcadis presentation to OSAB in August. This presentation goes hand
in hand with Item 14 and it and Item 14 are part of that place where the rubber
hits the road when it comes to Item 13.
Tomorrow is a PSB not to miss.
Finally, another don’t miss meeting is next Monday’s
(September 17) meeting of the Mayor’s Blue Ribbon Committee at 8 a.m. in the
City Council chambers. The question was whether that Committee would do all
that it was created to do. Read
the blog post. It seemed that, now that the PSB control of land management
is in the bag, other issues about water management, open space and a water use
budget might be dropped. Again, TxDOT’s Ted Houghton was raising some powerful
questions about water districts and water importation at the last meeting. Are
we now going to just drop them? The Mayor’s new
agenda may be giving more leeway for completing the Blue Ribbon’s tasks.
Last Thursday evening, NOAA and NWS meteorologist and forecaster David Novlan gave a presentation to the Trans-Pecos Chapter of the Texas Master Naturalists entitled "Some Interesting Aspects of the Climate of El Paso along with the Uncertainties of Future Climate Change". Dave has been with the NWS in El Paso from 1999 to the present. He has degrees in mathematics and atomospheric science, was chief forecaster at WhiteSands Missile Range from 1971 to 1999. He lectures and tutors at UTEP in the Department of Geology and Environmental Sciences as well as the Department of Physics. Grist reports that NOAA released its monthly State of the Climate assessment this morning. 2012 is shaping up to be the third hottest summer ever. You can read the NOAA assessment directly. Here in three parts is Novlan's presentation published with his permission. These are large files so be patient if the downloading is slower than usual. Since these are the Power Point back-up for his presentation, we don't have the advantage of his talk that accompanied the slides. Nevertheless, you will learn much by carefully reading each frame. To enlarge, click on the title above the frames or the icon on the bottom right of the bar which begins with Scribd. Some Interesting Aspects of the Climate of El Paso Along with the Uncertainties of Future Climate Change, P...
Accompanying Dave was John Fausett, the Warning Coordination Meteorologist for the National Weather Service office in Santa Teresa. Fausett is also well-known for his time as a broadcast meteorologist at KVIA from 1980 to 1990 and for his original song writing and guitar playing. John sang his song "Turn Around Don't Drown" which he wrote as part of the NWS public information campaign to warn motorists about the foolishness of crossing flooded areas. You can hear John on Facebook and YouTube. I suggest starting with Arms of El Paso.
Here's a message from Robert Ardovino who is leading the charge to save the Asarco stacks:
time has come to directly challenge the $14M number tossed out very early on in
this fight for Historic Preservation. Eight months have gone by and Save the
Stacks has put together a Board of Directors, formed a 501-c3 and has been
working hard behind the scenes in order to keep this future monument standing.
has contracted with a national chimney inspecting firm, Industrial Access to
prove that the stacks are structurally sound and will stand. Early indication
by three separate Firms on the ground under the stacks has left us very
optimistic about the integrity of the stacks. At this stage we
need to raise funds to pay for the $80k Inspection and the Engineering report.
dat we have commitment for just over half of that amount.
is running out, we NEED your help this week. Mr. Puga has set a demo deadline
of November 2012.
Although the PSB's land management role has now been rescued at the Mayor's Blue Ribbon Committee, it would seem that the PSB now would prefer to let sleeping dogs lie. Yet, not everyone is happy with the resolution and the continuing issue that a reasonable condition for declaring property inexpedient is its intrinsic value as open space.
The Mayor's Blue Ribbon Committee on Land Management Practices and Policies of the PSB was created by resolution of the El Paso City Council on June 12, 2012. Item 4 of the Resolution clearly states what the purview of the committee is:
"The Committee will review the following items, but not be limited to these items [emphasis mine], in providing recommendations on the land management practices and policies of the PSB: Land use, Revenue sharing practices and policies, Designation of real estate as inexpedient to the System, Processes for selling real estate, Open space, Growth, Water resource management, and Asset management"
One Committee member, Charlie Wakeem (who is also the Chairman of the City's Open Space Advisory Board) in an email to the Mayor's Executive Assistant, Diana Nuñez, requested that the following items be added to the September 17, 2012 Blue Ribbon agenda:
Review and amend the MOU resolution of August 22 [see link above]
Independent audit to determine cost and benefits between PSB and City [consistent with review of "revenue sharing practices and policies" of June 12th resolution above]
Open Space funding policy and procedures under the Ordinance Establishing the Municipal Drainage Utility [consistent with "Open space" and "revenue sharing" items
Create a sustainable water budget [consistent and critical to "water resource management and asset management" in the resolution]
What was the Mayor's response? Ms. Nuñez emailed Mr. Wakeem: "I presented your request to Mayor Cook and he believes that your agenda items are not part of the list of items that the advisory committee was tasked to provide a recommendation on. Also, in my humble opinion, I doubt that there will be time available to discuss any additional matters as we only have one more meeting before the joint meeting on September 26th where the recommendations will be presented to Council and the PSB." When were we in such a hurry? Re-scheduling never occurs? Determining inexpediency is just one issue. And, as I have said, the response is not entirely satisfactory. There is more here than meets the eye. Or, to use one of Mayor Cook's favorite expressions: "No good deed goes unpunished." Now that the PSB/EPWU have gotten help from the environmental/conservation community, they are prepared to turn on them with a vengeance. It's Hitler reassuring Chamberlain. Wait and see. More later. By the way, here's a copy of the Resolution creating the Blue Ribbon Committee signed by Mayor John Cook: Advisory Committee on Public Service Board Land Management To enlarge, click on title or icon on bottom right above.