When considering cities that require significant stormwater and flood control improvements, many might not initially picture a desert community like El Paso. However, with the Franklin Mountains positioned right in the heart of the city, El Paso has unique flood control challenges with water that comes rushing down the mountain.

Lightning strikes over El PasoDuring the summer monsoon, it’s not uncommon for a year’s worth of water to fall within a matter of days, and sometimes in small, localized areas. When stormwater falls over the mountains, the speed in which it flows and the debris it collects can create flooding hazards for downstream communities.

In 2006, a major storm caused city-wide flooding when El Paso received a year's worth of rain in two days. The storm caused more than $200 million in damages to businesses andhomes and $115 million in damage to the city's stormwater system. Stormwater improvements had been deferred for years because of a lack of dedicated funding, and many facilities were undersized or in need of maintenance.

In response to this problem, the City Council established a stormwater utility in 2008 that would be operated and maintained by El Paso Water and supported by monthly user fees.

EPWater was selected to oversee stormwater planning, capital improvements as well as operations and maintenance due to its expertise in managing the region's water resources and the city's water, wastewater and reclaimed water systems.


The City of El Paso and EPWater developed a master plan upon the devastating storms of 2006. The stormwater master plan (SWMP) divided the city and some areas outside the city into drainage basins. Each basin was analyzed and projects were recommended to improve the system's efficiency with a priority placed on improving flood control for homes, businesses, and I-10.

With many high-impact projects completed in the first decade, a stormwater focus group was convened in 2017 to review and evaluate remaining projects, determine whether new projects needed to be added and to adjust priorities.

The priority projects are incorporated into the capital improvement program, where new infrastructure like dams, ponds, and channels are built with stormwater funds. Visit our Stormwater Priorities page to learn more.

Decade of flood control improvements

EPWater takes stormwater seriously. Over the past decade, the utility has drastically improved public safety with its flood control efforts. Thanks to the completion of many high-impact projects including the installation of pipelines and pump stations, drainage improvements, and multiple ponds - most notably the Gateway Ponds project that added nearly 50 million gallons of stormwater capacity, EPWater can now capture over 100 million gallons of stormwater that could otherwise flood I-10, city streets, homes and businesses.

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El Paso is a topographically diverse community and experiences unique flooding challenges like flash floods and excessive water speeds up to 20 feet per second. While major stormwater improvements have reduced El Paso flooding, many streets act as a conveyance for stormwater and can become saturated during intense storms.

To raise safety awareness, EPWater participates in annual campaigns like Turn Around Don’t Drown that promote mindfulness about flood safety and the severe consequences of illegal dumping.

Completed stormwater projects include:

  • Gateway Ponds Project - $18 million
    • Added nearly 50 million gallons of water storage capacity
  • Magnolia Stormwater Projects - $25.2 million
    • New pump station and pipeline to the Rio Grande
  • Northeast Channel 2 - $14.6 million
    • Added stormwater storage capacity with larger culverts and concrete lined channels
  • Pico Norte Pond - $2 million
    • Added stormwater capacity to handle a 100-year storm
  • Austin Pond - $2.2 million
    • Added 2.7 million gallons of stormwater capacity and a recreational area
  • Basin G Excavation - $2.6 million
    • Additional stormwater and wetland capacity


Maintenance is a critical component of a successful stormwater system. Regularly scheduled maintenance ensures that personnel and equipment are used efficiently, and facilities are kept in working order.

Stormwater crews remove vegetation, debris and silt from facilities to keep the stormwater flowing. Together, EPWater and City of El Paso crews remove over 140,000 pounds of illegally dumped trash. Additionally, crews repair and maintain the infrastructure and provide free sandbags for flood control. Visit our Sandbags page for pick-up locations.

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