Water summit draws hundreds to NM

Water summit draws hundreds to NM
Posted on 05/01/2019
“Agua es vida,” or “Water is life,” said U.S. Rep. Xochitl Torres Small, New Mexico, as she discussed the importance of multi-agency, multi-government collaboration to ensure water sustainability for our region.

U.S. Rep. Xochitl Torres Small of New Mexico quickly set the tone during her welcome speech for the second annual Two Nations One Water summit April 24-25 in Las Cruces, New Mexico.

“Everyone in this room here today is here because you know the future of the West largely depends on one thing – water,” Torres Small said.

Referencing a recent agreement on managing the Colorado River, Torres Small said the pact showed that “even when our nation may seem its most divided, water is for working together.”

Joining in dialogue

Hundreds of water industry experts and researchers converged for the second annual Two Nations One Water summit April 24-25 in Las Cruces, New Mexico, prepared to foster a dialogue on solutions for water management.

Lead organizer Ed Archuleta, Director of Water Initiatives for the University of Texas at El Paso, welcomed the diverse audience to the New Mexico Farm and Ranch Heritage Museum.Lead organizer Ed Archuleta, Director of Water Initiatives for the University of Texas at El Paso, welcomed the diverse audience to the New Mexico Farm and Ranch Heritage Museum.

“This conference is first and foremost about starting conversations – conversations about research and innovation, about management and policy, and about our interdependence, and the need to work not in competition but in cooperation,” Archuleta said. 

Speakers and participants engaged on topics such as technologies for alternative water supplies, salinity management and experiences along the border with transboundary aquifer and surface water resources.

“Conservation has to be key,” said John Balliew, El Paso Water President and CEO. “Utilities can be very successful in conservation,” elaborating on EPWater’s successful strategies such as rate structure, leak detection and repair, public education programs, and partnerships to improve commercial and institutional water efficiency.

Among the most buzzworthy topics were water reuse.

Two Nations One Water 2019Across the border in Ciudad Juárez (Chihuahua, Mexico), the water utility uses reclaimed water to irrigate the city’s parks and gardens as well as crops in the Juárez valley.

Manuel Herrera, Chief Engineer and Technical Director for the Joint Municipal Water & Sewer Authority in Ciudad Juárez (Chihuahua, Mexico), said Juarenses struggled with their bias toward reclaimed water and are now more accepting of “purple pipe” water for irrigation.

Sanaan Villalobos of Carollo Engineers spoke about plans for EPWater’s Advanced Water Purification Facility, which will transform treated wastewater into fresh drinking water. When operational in 2024, It will be the first project of its kind in the U.S. to reuse and treat water for direct distribution to customers. The innovative treatment campus will feature the Jonathan Rogers Water Treatment Plant, the Roberto Bustamante Wastewater Treatment Plant and the Advanced Water Purification Facility.

Getting to the issues

One of the new features – breakout group discussions – generated additional dialogue and kudos from participants on water themes such as:

  • Drought versus aridification
  • Sharing transboundary data
  • Salinity issues in water and soil
  • Barriers on implementation of new technologies
  • Re-establishing a New Mexico-Texas Water Commission

U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich, New Mexico, and U.S. Rep. Veronica Escobar, Texas, thanked industry leaders for focusing on the real challenges of our region that include strategies on water management.

“I am grateful to each of you for developing innovative solutions to the water challenges that we face,” Heinrich said. “Delivering water in the years ahead will require even more cooperation across borders.”

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