The freeze raised questions about El Paso’s water supply
By Daniel Ornelas on June 10, 2011
EL PASO — Time to clear the water about El Paso’s water supply.
The worst blizzard to hit the Southwest in recent memory raised many questions about sufficient water supplies in El Paso and its surrounding towns.
Thousands of homes and businesses in the area suffered burst water pipes that caused floods and forced businesses and schools to close for several days. But as residents recover from the damage, they still are asking if El Paso is running out of water.
“We estimated about 15,000 to 20,000 homes had leaks. We couldn’t be at every home, but we tried to help as many as we could. El Paso Water Utilities supplies water up to the meter in front of their home and from the meter to the home that is the home owner’s responsibility,” said Christina Montoya, vice president of communication and marketing for El Paso Water Utilities (EPWU).
EPWU also experienced the same problems homeowners had, the freezing temperatures did not discriminate. “The freezing temperatures also caused a lot of damage to our infrastructure, our pump stations, some of our wells were frozen. We were also affected by the rolling black outs that El Paso Electric asked us to participate in and that in turn did some damage to some out equipment. When these pump stations don’t have power, a lot of the water will sit in these pipes and that caused them to freeze and eventually break,” said Montoya.
Parts of New Mexico, Texas and Chihuahua rely on the Mesilla Bolson and Huceo Bolson for ground water. Elephant Butte Reservoir in southern New Mexico is used to store spring runoffs for irrigation and municipal use.
The Rio Grande, which runs across the entire southern border of Texas and into the Gulf of Mexico is nearly dry and it plays a vital role in the recharge and discharge of both the Mesilla and Hueco basins.
A region of nearly one million residents was affected, yet only 45 miles away in Las Cruces people preserved 80 percent of their usual water supply during the crisis because it receives most of the water supply from the Mesilla Bolson
“You’re not comparing apples to apples here, Las Cruces is a significantly smaller town,” Montoya said.
EPWU has improved the collection of ground water over the years. Over the last 30 years it has kept the supple ample even considering that the city’s population has grown.
The problems encountered from the blizzard made it more apparent that this is truly a Sun City dominated by the Chihuahua dessert climate and is not conditioned to withstand abrupt freezing temperatures.