El Paso: At a Glance
El Paso Water Utilities (El Paso Water) conservation scorecard performance has dropped slightly from 76 points in the 2016 scorecard to 70 in the 2020 scorecard. Although El Paso Water continues to implement a wide range of water conservation best management practices, the utility has not taken an aggressive stance on limiting outdoor water use through outdoor watering restrictions as some other major Texas cities. Water loss in the utility’s distribution system has also increased over the years. El Paso Water continues to represent in many ways a good model for water conservation by a large retail water utility, but there are opportunities for improvement.
El Paso Water Utilities (El Paso Water) serves the City of El Paso, the sixth largest city in Texas with a population around 759,000. According to its most recent Water Conservation Plan, El Paso Water also provides water to an additional 75,000 residents through eight wholesale contracts. 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 is in the Region E water planning area.
El Paso Water uses both groundwater and surface water, specifically from the Rio Grande (40%) and two aquifers, the Hueco (40%) and Mesilla Bolsons (20%). In 2018, El Paso Water delivered over 107,748 acre-feet of treated water and approximately 61,378 acre-feet of treated wastewater. El Paso Water for over 25 years has been injecting treated wastewater back into the Hueco Bolson to augment that water source, and El Paso Water has a joint brackish groundwater desalination project with Fort Bliss that is currently the largest such facility in the country.
El Paso has had an active water conservation program since the early 1990s which has and continues to garner results. Though its total score here has not changed significantly, there has been progress that should be noted. Since the 2016 scorecard, El Paso Water has implemented an additional six Best Management Practices, increasing its total from 10 to 16 BMPs, a relatively high number compared to other water utilities in Texas. Additionally, El Paso Water has achieved a relatively low GPCD consistently of below 140 GPCD, and now aims for 126.5 by 2024, and 125 GPCD by 2029.
El Paso Water did regress slightly since the 2016 scorecard with regard to water loss and its water rate structure. Its water loss percentage rose from 9.73% to 13.05% and its water rate structure no longer sends a strong conservation pricing signal. El Paso Water would benefit from addressing these water loss and water rate structure concerns, and could further reinforce its efforts through stronger outdoor watering restrictions (such as no-more-than-twice- or no-more-than-once-a-week outdoor watering limitations).