The Public Service Board was established in 1952, but El Paso Water’s history is rooted in the early days of the City. When El Paso was incorporated in 1873, it was nothing like the thriving metropolis we enjoy today. Residents lived in adobe buildings and traveled down caliche streets. In those days, water used to flow from the Rio Grande through a system of ditches and canals.

Historical Highlights


Late 1800s

1882: Sylvester Watts established the first area water works. The reservoir Watts built at Sunset Heights allowed mud and silt to settle. New pipelines carried water to the main streets, and a well was built to supplement the supply. Despite improvements, residents complained that water quality was poor and the supply was inadequate.


Early 1900s

1910: The City purchased Sylvester Watts' water works. The water was made available entirely from wells that became the sole source of the city for more than 30 years.

1923: El Paso’s first wastewater treatment plant, the Haskell Street Plant, began operations in Central El Paso. With its implementation, El Paso would not turn to the river water for 20 more years.

Mid 1900s

Mid 1900s

1943: The Robertson Water Treatment Plant began operation. The treated water served a population of approximately 107,000.

1952: Realizing that El Paso needed a separate board to better manage water, the City Council – through El Paso City Ordinance No. 752 – established a five member board of trustees known as the Public Service Board (PSB), which was given complete management and control of the City’s water system. Four of its five members were appointed by the City Council, and the Mayor was designated as the fifth member.

1962: The Haskell Street Plant began providing reclaimed water to Ascarate Golf Course for irrigation.

1967: The treatment capacity of the Robertson Water Plant doubled with the construction of the adjacent Umbenhauer Plant. These downtown plants can treat 40 million gallons of water per day.



1985: The Fred Hervey Plant, which serves Northeast El Paso, became operational as a combined water and wastewater treatment plant. It treats wastewater to drinking water quality standards and was one of the first in the country to use at least a portion of the water to replenish the aquifer (also known as aquifer recharge). It was significantly financed with EPA assistance. The treated effluent from the plant is sold to El Paso Electric Company for cooling water and to the nationally renowned Painted Dunes Desert Golf Course for irrigation.

1987: The John T. Hickerson Water Reclamation Facility, formerly known as the Northwest Plant, became operational, serving the west side of the Franklin Mountains into the Upper Valley. Highly treated effluent is either safely discharged to the Rio Grande or transmitted through the Northwest Reclaimed Water Distribution System. With significant Bureau of Reclamation and State of Texas funding assistance, the reclaimed system serves Coronado Country Club golf course and various parks and schools.



1991: The Roberto Bustamante Plant became operational. It serves Southeast El Paso and areas outside the city.

1991: The water resource management plan was implemented to significantly reduce water use by recommending a new rate structure and promoting conservation. The City adopted a new conservation ordinance, setting restrictions on watering and penalties on water waste. 

1993:  The Jonathan Rogers Plant became operational, serving El Paso’s growing East and Mission Valley areas.

1995: The Public Service Board purchased a 21,000-acre Wild Horse Valley Ranch near Van Horn as a potential future water source.

1995: The Texas Legislature designated the Public Service Board as a regional water and wastewater planner for El Paso County.

1995: The Northeast Plant expanded from 5 million gallons per day to 17 million gallons per day.



2002: The Jonathan Rogers Water Treatment Plant expanded to provide from 40 to 60 million gallons per day.

2006: The International Water Quality Laboratory opens. The lab is housed in a 27,000 square-foot building, which is also home to the Industrial Pre-treatment and Wastewater division offices. The lab contains state-of-the-art equipment, an enhanced security system and a Laboratory Information Management System.

2007: The Kay Bailey Hutchison Desalination Plant opens, treating brackish groundwater for drinking water. A joint project of El Paso Water and Fort Bliss, the plant is capable of producing 27.5 million gallons per day. 

2007: The Haskell Wastewater Treatment Plan expands to provide reclaimed water treatment and distribution.

2008: The TecH2O Learning Center opened its doors.

2008: Under policy direction from the City Council and the Public Service Board, El Paso Water became responsible for stormwater management in the City of El Paso. The action came as a result of extreme flooding in the City in 2006. 

2010: The Public Service Board expands from 5 to 7 members.

2015: El Paso Water opened the Advanced Water Purification Pilot Plant to test what is expected to be one of the first pipe-to-pipe potable reuse plants in the country.

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