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Liquid Assets: The State of Texas’ Water Resources

Region E Plan


Far West Texas Region (E)

Region E Map

Text Description of Map of Region E.

Exhibit 18: Map of Far West Texas Region (E)

Region E, also known as the Far West region, is located in West Texas adjacent to New Mexico and Mexico. El Paso is located in the western tip of the region, which includes seven counties situated within the Rio Grande River basin (Exhibit 18). The region depends on a variety of economic sectors, including agriculture, agribusiness, manufacturing and tourism. Ninety-six percent of the area’s residents live in El Paso County, which has a population density of 760 persons per square mile, compared to an average density of 1.1 persons per square mile in the other six counties.33

Strategies Used and Estimated Costs

Region E has developed 16 water management strategies to meet its future needs. These are expected to provide 166,097 acre-feet of water annually by 2060 at a capital cost of $688.8 million. The El Paso Water Utilities (EPWU) will implement most of these strategies.

The majority of the capital cost, $502.7 million, will be used for pumping and treating additional groundwater from the Bone Spring-Victorio Peak Aquifer near Dell City. Other EPWU projects, such as the importation of water, the direct reuse of wastewater effluent, and the increased use of surface water from the Rio Grande will account for another $172.4 million in capital costs. These four strategies alone will create an additional 98,109 acre-feet of water annually by 2060. EPWU’s conservation program, with an annual operating cost of $4 million, is expected to provide an additional 23,437 acre-feet per year by 2060 (Exhibit 19).34

Since 1993, El Paso Water Utility has operated an aggressive water conservation program that imposes restrictions on residential watering and includes a rate structure that penalizes high consumption. Through such conservation efforts, El Paso’s daily water use has decreased from 200 gallons per capita in 1990 to 151 in 2006. The per capita goal for the city is 140, which would be the lowest level of use among Texas’ large cities.

Exhibit 19

Far West Texas Region (E) Water Management Strategies

Description Capital Costs Water Gained in Acre-Feet Average Capital Cost per Acre-Feet
Conservation $0 23,437 $0
Desalination $502,743,000 50,000 $10,055
Groundwater $36,779,000 26,191 $1,404
Surface Water $103,494,000 20,000 $5,175
Water Reuse $45,842,000 18,109 $2,531
Total $688,858,000 137,737 $5,001

Note: Capital cost figures do not include administrative, programmatic or other costs that may be required to implement water management strategies.

Source: Texas Water Development Board.

Status of Major Water Projects and Strategies

The region’s largest project involves pumping additional groundwater from Bone Spring-Victorio Peak Aquifer. The brackish water of this aquifer does not meet municipal water quality standards, so most of the $502.7 million in costs are for treating and desalinating the water.35

In 2003, EPWU purchased 28,000 acres of land, a tract called Diablo Farms, which overlays the Capitan Reef Aquifer. EPWU intends to convert Diablo Farms into a well field. This project will provide an estimated 10,000 additional acre-feet annually by 2060.36 The Lower Valley Water District has received $10.2 million in state funds from TWDB to replace a water main as part of this project.37

Drilling for the Diablo Farms project is scheduled to begin in 2040. Like the Bone Spring-Victorio Peak project, this is a long-term strategy to meet future water demand driven by regional population growth. Because water demand has not been as high as projected in the 2006 regional water plan, the region is likely to push back the scheduled start dates for the Diablo Farms and the Bone Spring-Victorio Peak Aquifer projects.38

According to TWDB, if the strategies listed above are not implemented, Region E residents could lose $160 million in income and 4,570 full- and part-time jobs by 2010, rising to nearly $1.1 billion in income and more than 13,000 jobs by 2060. In addition, state and local governments could lose $8 million in annual tax revenue by 2010 and about $105 million by 2060.39

Regional Challenges and Successes

Since 1993, EPWU has operated an aggressive water conservation program that imposes restrictions on residential watering and includes a rate structure that penalizes high consumption. The utility also offers several rebate programs for replacing appliances and bathroom fixtures with low-consumption units and using native landscaping to reduce the need for irrigation.40 Through such conservation efforts, El Paso’s daily water use has decreased from 200 gallons per capita in 1990 to 151 in 2006.41 The per capita goal for the city is 140, which would be the lowest level of use among Texas’ large cities.42

EPWU’s Kay Bailey Hutchison Desalination Plant, completed in 2007, is the world’s second largest inland desalination plant, producing 27.5 million gallons of fresh water per day from brackish groundwater supplies. The facility has increased El Paso’s water production by 25 percent, and also includes a learning center, groundwater wells, transmission pipelines and storage and pumping facilities.43

Endnotes

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