Tuesday, October 28, 2014

If fracking is so great, why are so many people against it?

In previous posts specifically about Torchlight Energy's plan to frack on the Diablo Plateau/Otero Mesa ecosystem, I've discussed the fragile desert environment along with its diversity of flora and fauna. There's another concern: the health, safety and welfare of people. 

Torchlight Energy will poison a valuable aquifer with its cauldron of carcinogen chemicals used in fracking - an aquifer now valuable to farmers and ranchers but one day may be to El Pasoans. It is this baneful brew of benzene and other compounds, including methane, that has so many communities from Pennsylvania to California calling for a ban on fracking in their backyards.

It's not just that fracking companies like Torchlight Energy can continue to keep their lengthy list of fracking chemicals a secret while asserting that their "recycled" water and drilling do no harm. Scientists now know how to determine if water contamination comes from fracking. They now see fracker's fingerprints all over contaminated water. Green groups for a long time have said that agencies such as the EPA have underestimated the amount of methane leaked into the water supply.

The result is that city's are rising up and banning fracking. Last year Dallas did so. (Bet this is the first time that you have heard that.) Now with Frack Free Denton and Denton Drilling Awareness Group leading the way Denton is on the verge of saying NO to fracking in next Tuesday's election.

Of course, both Dallas and Denton are banning fracking within their own city limits. The Diablo Plateau is not only outside of El Paso but it is in a different county as well. However, if fracking there would immediately compromise our water and people would be igniting water coming out of their taps, there would be an outcry especially if many people develop skin blisters as is happening in other active fracking areas around the country. (Read the list of harms caused by fracking in Pennsylvania and New York as examples.) Our problem is more long term - the aquifer but could be short term with the added air pollution. (The wind blows from east to west you know during certain times of the year and much of the batch of benzene and other skull and crossbones chemicals that will spill on the desert ground will be blown our way.) It is hard to convince the country club bunch that an ecosystem is worth preserving. It is a bit easier to talk about the health and safety of folks even if they must think long term or believe the results of air monitoring - independent since we really can't depend on the TCEQ.

So what can we do? El Paso City and County might be able to place fees on companies which sell materials or provide labor or equipment to Torchlight or other frackers. I'm sure Torchlight will have to buy sand from El Paso and may have to lease other equipment from here. Put an onerous fee on those products and those services. Of course, some will say that Torchlight will go elsewhere and El Paso will lose the business. However, the cost of transporting sand and other products from too far will be huge. 

El Pasoans can also boycott companies that support Torchlight as well as sell to the public. 

I'm thinking out loud but that is what we must begin to do if there is any chance of deterring Torchlight or any other company from fracking just over the hill from our city and our county on privately owned land.

It's worth the effort.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Learn about, eat and buy Cacti this Saturday

Click on image to enlarge.

This is one of my favorite events of the year - especially Jim Hasting's (the Gringo Gourmet) cooking with cactus as well as the cactus and succulent sale:

El Paso City Council decreed November as "Cactus Appreciation Month".  The El Paso Cactus and Rock Club is hosting a program open to the public to kick off the celebration on Saturday, Nov. 1 from 9:30 AM to 2 PM. Informative briefings, a cooking with cactus demonstration, literature, and CDs are offered at no charge to attendees. Native and exotic cacti and other succulents can be purchased.  The program will be at the El Paso Garden Center, 3105 Grant St., located in Memorial Park. MAP Light refreshments will be available.  Admission is free. There is parking available behind the building.  For more information: Virginia Morris, or 915-833-7637.

9 AM           DVD presentation on Cacti and Other Succulents.
10 AM What is a Cactus?
11 AM Cooking with Cacti Demonstration
12 PM Succulents: Around the World to Your Backyard
1 PM            Propagation & Care of Cacti in Your Landscape
9 AM to 2 PM Sale of Native & Exotic Cacti and Succulents

See also:
El Paso Cactus & Rock Club
The Gringo Gourmet

Friday, October 24, 2014

The Friday Video: Fracking Threatens Chaco's Sacred American Heritage

Nothing is sacred to frackers but money, money, money. 

The video above was taken from Fracking threatens the Chaco Canyon World Heritage Site published by Earthworks.

See also:

Wells creep toward Chaco (Durango Herald)

Don't frack Chaco Canyon (Environment New Mexico)

And, although a minor victory was achieved for this land, far more needs to be done. "To be sure, we still have work to do. The Greater Chaco Landscape is still in need of full protection and the rush to frack in the American West remains the most significant threat to the land, wildlife, our water and our clean air." - Jeremy Nichols, Wild Earth Guardians.

For closer to home:

What the frack? (Sul Ross student publication, Skyline. See p. 4 of pdf.)

And, much, much closer to home:

Drew Stuart, editor of the Hudspeth County Herald told me: "The Diablo Plateau and Otero Mesa are a continuous grassland ecosystem - so that many of the observations that conservation groups have made about the Otero Mesa would apply to the Diablo Plateau as well." Read all about this grassland and its rich biodiversity. Enlarge the pic at this post. See what the Texas side of this continuous grassland ecosystem will look like once Torchlight Energy is done.

By the way, other national historic parks are threatened:

Map above from Is Nothing Sacred? Fracking and Chaco Culture National Historic Park a story by Char Miller for KCET Los Angeles.  

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Disposable Water Bottles: Throw away convenience with long term consequences

The slide show below was put together by Dr. Ann Branan Horak from the University of Texas at El Paso. She presented this at last Saturday's Ecology and Spirituality Workshop sponsored by El Paso and Southern New Mexico Interfaith Alliance and Celebration of Our Mountains. The event took place at the El Paso Columban Mission Center.

Still planning to buy plastic water bottles in bulk from Sam's Club or WalMart? Or just a single item from the 7-11? Want to ask your business, organization or governmental agency to stop using them?

Visit, Bookmark, Read

Here is an excellent, well-written and intelligent El Paso blog which you should visit, bookmark and read: elpasospeak.

Add it to your favorites.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

"New Data Out Of Pennsylvania Links Drilling To Water Contamination"

Absolutely, positively read New Data Out Of Pennsylvania Links Drilling To Water Contamination by Sara Jerome at Water Online.

One More Reason to Support Our Public Service Board/El Paso Water Utilities

John Balliew receivng the AMWA Sustainable Water Utility Management Award.
The Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies, an organization of the largest publicly-owned drinking water suppliers in the United States, honored our El Paso Water Utilities (EPWU) with its Sustainable Water Utility Management Award. This is one more reason to keep the PSB/EPWU independent and not make it just one more department of the City of El Paso. 

By the way, be sure to read the October 20, 2014 post at Refuse the Juice. Quoting directly and emphasizing:

"The PSB is one of the few things in El Paso - government wise - that works."

And again:  

"Should El Paso be taking steps to protect it's most precious asset (water) and the preserver of that asset (PSB/EPWU)?"  

Here's the EPWU press release about the award:

El Paso Water Utilities Receives National Award
for Sustainable Water Management

NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. – The Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies (AMWA) honored El Paso Water Utilities with The Sustainable Water Utility Management Award at its 2014 Executive Management Conference on Monday in Newport Beach, Calif.
The Sustainable Water Utility Management Award, presented for the first time this year, recognizes water utilities that have made a commitment to management that achieves a balance of innovative and successful efforts in areas of economic, social and environmental endeavors.
“AMWA awards recognize the serious commitment and significant progress these award-winning drinking water agencies are making toward long-term viability through innovative management practices, executive leadership and employee engagement,” said AMWA President Chuck M. Murray, General Manager of Fairfax Water. “Sustainable communities cannot exist without sustainable water systems, and these award winners are invaluable assets to their communities and their customers.”
El Paso Water Utilities, one of nine utilities to receive the national award, was recognized for its proactive water management strategy focused on policy, planning and technology. Sustainability for EPWU means protecting public health by producing clean, safe water from renewable resources while meeting daily standards.
“Our unique geographical location and climate requires us to be proactive,” states John Balliew, EPWU President/CEO. “We work hand-in-hand with our customers and stakeholders to aggressively implement our water resources management plan.”
EPWU was commended on receiving high marks in all areas, according to national benchmarking surveys conducted by AMWA. AMWA also took special note that El Paso’s average residential water bills are among the lowest in the Southwest, largely due to gains in operational efficiency and a commitment to continuous process improvement principles.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Doing the Math: Where Will Torchlight Get All of Its Water?

Elpasonaturally has been following the recent acquisition of 172,000 acres on the Diablo Plateau by Torchlight Energy and their plans to frack as many as 2500 wells. See previous posts HERE and HERE.

Based on industry reports, the estimate for water used in one fracking operation is as low as 70,000 barrels or as high as 200,000 gallons. Assuming that a barrel equals 42 gallons, and noting Torchlight Energy's estimate that they may drill as many as 2500 wells on the Diablo Plateau southwest of Cornudas, Texas (just a hop from El Paso), then follow the math and weep and/or scream:

At the low end it takes about 2,940,000 gallons (70,000 barrels X 42 gallons/barrel) of water to "frack" one well. If you have 2500 wells as Torchlight Energy estimates may be the maximum number to drill on the Diablo Plateau southwest of Cornudas, then you need 7.35 billion gallons of water. Fracking can use up to 200,000 gallons per well or 8,400,000 gallons of water. Again, if 2500 wells, then the total usage is 21 billion gallons of water.  21 billion gallons equals 60% of all the water EPWU sold in 2013. (In 2013 EPWU billed its retail and wholesale customers for 35.1 billion gallons of water.) At the low end it is a third of that but still a whole lot of water.

Where will Torchlight get all of that water? 

I'm not saying that they will get it from El Paso. However, one wonders how much water there is below Dell City and the Diablo Plateau.

Of course, some of the water used in fracking is recycled - i.e., water that flows back from an operation along with all the toxic compounds or "produced" - water which results when some water which remains underground becomes more like the water naturally found in the shale. Unfortunately, the amount of such water is a small percentage of what is used. "In fact, according to a 2012 study by the Texas Water Development Board, only 2% of water in the Permian Basin and 5% of water in the Barnett Shale was recycled." This according to Power Shift

What is more troubling is figuring out where all this water can go without contaminating drinking water. It can be re-injected into the geologic formations which often results in earthquakes and/or contaminates the aquifer. It can be passed on to local water treatment plants which may be overwhelmed and may not be able to filter out all of the toxic chemicals and thus further pass those obnoxious compounds down the river for all of its agricultural consumers to use on crops. Or this unsustainable "recycled" water is spilled on the ground which is too frequently the case. (Read the information in a National Geographic blog. Also see from the NY Times: Waste Water Recycling No Cure-All in Gas Process.

Bottom line: Torchlight Energy's proposed drilling on 172,000 acres just east of El Paso should frighten us all whether they drill 2500 wells eventually or much fewer. There ought to be an outcry but don't expect any of the El Paso media to raise an alarm. In fact, expect stories about how good the fracking will be for the El Paso economy. Sorry - but that's not only wrong but immoral.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Take Military Land Use Study Survey

Currently there is a Joint Land Use Study being conducted by the military. They are seeking public comment regarding the impact of local military facilities and communities. They recently gave a presentation to interested persons in El Paso. However, that meeting was not well publicized.

Richard Teschner, the President of the Friends of the Rio Bosque, sent out the following email this morning. It well summarizes the purpose of the Land Use Study:

"The Southern New Mexico/El Paso, Texas Joint Land Use Study (JLUS) is a cooperative process among city, county and state governments, state and federal agencies, Fort Bliss, Holloman Air Force Base, White Sands Missile Range, and the public in general. The JLUS seeks to create a long-term planning partnership that protects quality of life in local communities and enhances the military missions of the three installations. The study emphasizes ways to promote coordination, understand the economic impact of the installations, and preserve critical civilian and Department of Defense capabilities. The JLUS looks at various compatibility factors including aviation and range noise, airspace, safety, renewable energy and frequency spectrum management.

"The Draft JLUS report contains strategies to promote compatibility between civilian growth, development decisions and military missions. The report is available at . When you click on that link you will also find a survey, which I encourage you to take. Comments/Survey completions are welcome through November 6, 2014."

Go to the JLUS site where you will find a link to the survey. There is a place where you can add a comment. I mentioned my concern that military exercises are destroying desert ecosystems. I hope others will mention the same issue.

You can see the slide show from the JLUS public meeting HERE.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Get Ready

Imagine flying over the Diablo Plateau just past the Huecos from El Paso and seeing this. Get ready.

Fracking is known for its contamination of wells and groundwater. For instance, Californians have recently learned that frackers are dumping billions of gallons of toxic waste into their groundwater. No wonder that people in Denton, Texas are fighting fracking in their community. Yet the damage to underground resources and subsequent health dangers to those above is not the only havoc reeked by the fracking industry. Social costs and damage to the surface ecosystems need to be weighed as well.

Food and Water Watch recently published a study on the social costs of fracking. (There are good summaries HERE and HERE.) Environment America has also issued a study. The social costs include impact on health, infrastructure, increased crime and sexual disease, negative impact on property values, on and on. 

But the environmental impact is not just deep underground. It is what happens to the surface: chemical spills, heavy trucks and other machinery destroying surface soil and cutting new roads from fracking pad to fracking pad. Indeed it is this surface damage that may be the highest cost of fracking especially in the desert.

The desert surface is so valuable and so vulnerable. The soil teems with life and that life is essential for the plants and animals of the region. Lichens, mosses, liverworts, cyanobacteria all bind the surface and aid in water retention critical to the desert ecosystem. "The survival, growth, and reproduction of living things depends considerably on soil characteristics," according to Sonoran Desert expert, Joseph R. McAuliffe.  

Science Daily quotes American Society of Agronomy and Soil Science Society of America Member Mandy Williams: "These crusts kind of act like a living mulch across a desert, by protecting the surface from erosion. Once you disturb the soil surface, you're more likely to lose what little resources are available there."

[See good pictures of the life in the desert crusts HERE.] 

Thus, it is disheartening to learn that Torchlight Energy has acquired 172,000 acres on the Diablo Plateau southwest of Cornudas, Texas which is just a hop from El Paso. Consider the damage to the ecosystem of that plateau. Consider the social costs to Dell City and, yes, to El Paso. Get ready.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Register NOW for Sun Country Landscaping Conference

Click image to enlarge.
County Extension Agent and West Texas Urban Forestry Council member,Denise Rodriguez, reminds us that: 

"Early registration [for the Sun Country Landscaping Conference] closes on October 31st. 

"John White will join me on the Good to Grow radio show on October 25th to promote the conference. Also, the Master Gardeners will have an educational booth at this weekend’s Home and Garden Show and will have printed programs on hand."

Denise has been the Chairwoman of this year's SCLC.

To see the conference program and print out a registration form, go HERE. You can also pre-register online HERE.

ALL persons are welcomed and will get valuable info and tips about trees (including fruit trees), rainwater management, turf and composting. Many sessions are in Spanish.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

EcoWise El Paso Recognizes JimTolbert

Okay - I'm bragging. Truth is I was honored and surprised when I was presented with yesterday's first EcoWise El Paso award at the annual Environmental Summit. 

My friend and the Master of Ceremony at yesterday's event, Rick LoBello read this commendation:

"Today we would like to honor with our first EcoWise El Paso Environmental Award one of the most respected environmental writers in El Paso.  For many years he has helped to inform the general public about a wide array of environmental issues.  His leadership is one of the main reasons why the City took action to protect nearly 800 acres of desert habitat near Franklin Mountains State Park along Loop 375 on the Trans Mountains Road. He consistently speaks out for the environment and helps to bring people together so that they can find consensus on important issues.   He has been very active as a member of the City's Open Space Board and over the past few years his leadership has helped to make El Paso's Celebration of our Mountains the city's number one "get outside and connect with nature" community event. He is one of El Paso's top conservation heroes and it is an honor for me to present this award to Jim Tolbert."

The award reads:

"EcoWise El Paso recognizes Jim Tolbert for invaluable dedication and commitment to preserving the Paso del Norte Environment. 2014"

Every now and then I am tempted to give up elpasonaturally. Well - not for awhile.

Jim Tolbert, Pat White and Judy Ackerman at the 2014 EcoWise Environmental Summit

Friday, October 10, 2014

The Friday Video: The Remarkable World of Winter Squash

Who needs canned food?! Here are some ideas for good food from scratch PLUS the answer to that seasonal grocery store or farmers market question: "What the heck is that?"

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Joint Land Use Study Needs Your Attention

Got this message from Judy Ackerman today:

"This sounds like something we should pay attention to.  Please spread the word." judy ackerman

El Paso County: Tuesday, October 14 2014 from 6 to 8PM 
El Paso Community College-Transmountain Campus 
9570 Gateway Blvd. North El Paso, TX

The Southern New Mexico – El Paso, Texas Joint Land Use Study (SNMEP JLUS) is a cooperative process among city, county, and state governments; the public; agencies; and the military installations of Fort Bliss, Holloman Air Force Base and White Sands Missile Range. The study looks at issues such as land use, economic development, infrastructure, environmental sustainability, and the operational demands and mission change of both military and civilian entities within the six counties of Doña Ana, Lincoln, Otero, Sierra, and Socorro in New Mexico and El Paso County in Texas. The intent of the study is to highlight common interests such as economic growth, more efficient infrastructure, healthier environments, improved quality of life, and the protection of Department of Defense and civilian investments and missions. [Emphases mine.]

More info:

Tempest in a Teapot

Want to brew a tempest in a teapot? Here's how:

Item 12d on yesterday's agenda of the El Paso County Water Improvement District #1 Board meeting was:

Application 1683, by El Paso Water Utilities-Public Service Board, for a 25 year license to construct a 36-inch reclaimed water main crossing the Rio Intercepting Drainage Canal at approximately Station 39+65.

The “36-inch reclaimed water main” is the planned pipeline from the Bustamante Plant to Rio Bosque and, in time, to a regulating pond as part of the utility's conservation strategy. 

At Water District Engineer Al Blair’s request, the item was moved to “closed session.”  After 2 hours of closed session, which also included many other items on the agenda, the board reconvened in open session, and Board President Johnny Stubbs stated the board was taking “no action” on Application 1683.

Naturally the lack of action raised fears among conservationists and friends of the Bosque and seemed to dampen the jubilation expressed in the recent Rio Bosque News. Here's your tempest in a teapot brewing.

Even though the EPWU will seek clarification, one wonders if it really matters what the District does that can hold up construction. Whoever can't read maps that show rightaway or whichever maps are incorrect, construction will go on even if EPWU will have to zig and zag a bit. Of course in November, the Water District Board may just grant the license.

Of course, elpasonaturally will keep an eye on this. However, for the time being, a deep breath might be helpful. Balliew and crew are trustworthy.

The matter though raises another issue that I have been planning to blog about for awhile now: the greed of those who serve on the Water Improvement District Board and hence their unwillingness to care anything about anyone but themselves. 

Picture this: you own a large pecan farm in the lower valley. You also have sat for decades on the Water District Board. Your Daddy served on it before you. Your Board is unanswerable to anyone else and YOU set the price you will pay for water for your water-guzzling pecan trees. That indeed is how it works.

Wouldn't it be nice for any one of us to sit on a board that sets the price we pay at gasoline pumps or at the grocery store? We set prices low for us but high for everyone else.

Here's what Water District Board President Johnny Stubbs pays for his water:

The EPWU buys water for as much as $260 an acre foot! It's less on different contracts but not nearly what Johnny and the boys pay - the price set by themselves for themselves. Again, nobody oversees the district board - at least nobody who gives a hoot and a holler.

Rather than being civic-minded and, in truth, patriotic, members of the Water District Board will clench their fists in an executive session (which may not have been legal) and make no decision on a request that helps neighbors and could encourage an $18 million dollar per year eco-tourist site at the Rio Bosque. But, of course, that $18 million dollars won't go into their pockets. 

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

No Straw Please

This morning I got an email reminder about a program called Be Straw Free. It's a great idea and here is why:

Certainly there are ways to deal with the issues of sustainability and environmental care on a "macro" level; but our "micro" personal habits will make an impact as well. Here is one very small and easy thing that you can do: tell the waiter or waitress at a restaurant not to bring you a straw with your drink. 

"Did you know that over 500 million straws are used daily in the United States? That's enough disposable straws to fill over 46,400 large school buses per year!" That statement comes from Xanterra Parks and Resort's marketing campaign promoting the program at

Although Be Straw Free was started in 2011, the idea is now catching on. Old habits die hard however. If you must, write a memo note and stick it to your steering wheel: "no straw at restaurant" or something similar. Know that, out of habit, your server may bring one anyway. Take time to tell her why you don't want the straw - it is more waste; it's plastic thus petrochemical; it is sometimes over-packaged in a paper or plastic container - more waste. And the straw is non-biodegradeable! Mention the 500 million straws daily in the U.S. alone. Mention 46,400 bus loads or just round up to 50,000. 500 million straws. 50,000 school bus loads.

Be Straw Free has a Facebook page. Like it. Share it. Share this post with your friends as well. Spread the word.

Here's a video. I love this kid!

Friday, October 3, 2014

The Friday Video: George Carlin Talks about Stuff

The Friday video is back. Below is the famous George Carlin routine on "stuff". It's a perfect satire of our consumer/growth economy that is pushing us and all living things on the earth to extinction.

Fracking Coming to the El Paso Region?

Just 64 miles from El Paso on the Diablo Plateau atop the Salt Basin Aquifer is Cornudas, TX - a place of us zoom by on our way to the Guadalupe Mountains National Park or Carlsbad Caverns. Now if we were to stop there, turnaround, drive back toward El Paso and then a bit south, we would be in an area that Torchlight Energy Resources plans to drill for oil. The company is expected to drill a test well before the year is over and then ultimately 2,500 wells. The euphemism they use: "horizontal drilling techniques". Read FRACKING. Torchlight believes that the Diablo Plateau atop the Salt Basin Aquifer less than an hour from El Paso will prove to be another Midland/Odessa.

The Hudspeth County Herald edited by Andrew Stuart broke the story in August. Read about it HERE and HERE. Anything in the El Paso Times? Nope. What about the Inc.? No, not there also.

Just passed the Hueco Mountains and the Border Patrol station, is the Diablo Plateau. Cornudas Mountains sit to the north. The Cornudas are 35-million-year-old igneous intrusions, smaller parts of the huge volcanic event which created the Davis Mountains near Big Bend National Park.  Alamo Mountain in the Cornudas is the site of perhaps thousands of petroglyphs. Including the Cornudas and beyond them to the north in New Mexico is the Otero Mesa, a vast, unspoiled grassland of over 1,000 native wildlife species now also threatened by rare earth interest. (BTW Orkin Pest Control trucks have been spotted on the Otero Mesa. The bet is that they are killing prairie dogs.) On the Diablo Plateau, are Pronghorns, forests of cholla and Soaptree Yuccas (State flower of New Mexico). And did I mention that it sits atop the Salt Basin Aquifer.

This is a story to follow. Bookmark the Hudspeth County Herald site.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Water - Why YOU Should Care

Water – Why YOU Should Care

by Judy Ackerman

For over 60 years  El Paso Water Utilities (EPWU) and the Public Service Board (PSB) have done such an outstanding job of ensuring El Pasoans have water, (with the few restrictions for days to water and time of day during the hot months), that now the public takes water for granted.  We take water for granted at all our peril.

On September 26, the PSB held a strategic planning meeting to outline progressively more complicated and more costly methods to obtain water for our growing city.  The meeting was to share information and solicit ideas from the public on managing our most critical and life-giving resource - water.  But only one member of the public and zero elected officials, bothered to attend.

Question:  Living in the desert, where every living thing depends on water, how did we get so complacent?  

Answer:  Because of the excellent work of the PSB.

A Brief History  

In 1951 we had the “drought of record” meaning it was the worst drought in recorded history.  Every day, El Paso papers headlined the drought.  Even with water restrictions, wells ran dry and some El Pasoans had NO water at all.  The public called for the creation of an independent board to manage water resources and do long range planning (50 years out).  The PSB was born in 1952.  The drought of the 1950s lasted 20 years.  In 2013 we set the new “drought of record” with much less water available than in 1951.  This drought could last 20 years or more.    

Currently, EPWU gets water from groundwater, the river, desalination and reuse (purple pipe).   In case of continuing drought, or growing population, the EPWU needs to expand its portfolio of water options.  Future sources of water could be advanced purification, additional desalinization plants, purification of water from agricultural drains and piping in water from near and far.  These options require planning and capital expenditures now, in order to be available for future demands for water.

  • Elephant Butte Dam in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, controls “waters of the US” for agricultural use – NOT municipal.
  • Because of agreements with El Paso County Water Improvement District # 1 (the irrigation district), the EPWU usually gets 50% of our municipal water from the river during the irrigation season which normally lasts from 15 Feb to 15 Oct (nine months).  
  • In 2013 the irrigation season lasted only 6 weeks because there was so little water available in Elephant Butte and only 9% of our water came from the river.  Additional groundwater pumping had to make up the difference.
  • The amount of rain we receive in El Paso has very little impact on the water available in the river.  
  • Water in the Rio Grande comes from snow melt in Colorado and Northern New Mexico.
  • The ground water we use from the Hueco and Mesilla Bolsons is a limited resource and we are depleting it faster than we can recharge the aquifers.  
  • More than half of the Hueco Bolson is brackish; too salty for drinking water.
  • EPWU and the PSB are eager to share their information and expertise.

What Can We Do?

To ensure El Paso’s sustainability and future growth, stay informed on water issues.  Attend PSB meetings.  Check the PSB website.  Visit EPWU’s TecH2O Center.  Practice water conservation.