Water Resources

Past and present water supplies

As a steward of one of our most important resources, El Paso Water is committed to meeting the community's present and future water demands. El Paso Water proudly supplies 97 percent of all municipal water in El Paso County.

Since the beginning of the 20th century, El Paso has relied on both surface water and groundwater for municipal water supply.

  • Surface water is supplied from the Rio Grande. The Rio Grande flows that are diverted in the El Paso area are primarily derived from snowmelt runoff in southern Colorado and northern New Mexico.
  • Groundwater supplies are pumped from the Mesilla and Hueco bolsons, which are shown in the figure below. These groundwater basins lie under parts of New Mexico, Texas and Chihuahua, Mexico.

Over the years, we have also added desalinated water to meet peak summer demand and water needs when river supplies are limited. The pie chart below shows El Paso water sources in a non-drought year. 

new pie chart

Managing our water resources

EPWater's pumping in the Hueco Bolson peaked at about 80,000 acre-feet per year (AF/yr) in 1989. As a result of concerns regarding the long-term ability to continue this level of pumping (e.g. Muller and Price, 1979 and Boyle Engineering, 1991), EPWater implemented the following water management strategies:

  • Adopted a rate structure that increases the cost of water for high use.
  • Promoted water conservation through various incentive programs.
  • Increased the use of Rio Grande Water.
  • Expanded the reuse of reclaimed water.

As shown below, EPWater's pumping in the Hueco Bolson increased in 2003, 2004, 2011, 2012, 2013 in response to drought conditions that resulted in a reduced river allocation. Pumping in the Hueco Bolson in 2007, 2008 and 2009 was minimal because EPWater received a full river allocation. The conjunctive use of surface water and groundwater — increasing groundwater pumping in times of surface water shortages — to meet overall demands is part of EPWater's overall water supply strategy. Learn more about our aquifers here.

Hueco Acre Feet Chart

Rio Grande water supply

EPWater is a customer of the local irrigation district (El Paso County Water Improvement District No.1), and obtains water through ownership of water rights land and leasing of water rights from agricultural water rights holders in El Paso County. EPWater's surface water plants have a combined capacity of 100 MGD. Under normal river flow conditions, the plants operate seven months during the year (i.e. during the irrigation season). Currently, El Paso has water rights of about 70,000 AF/yr from the Rio Grande Project (FWTRPG, 2011). Learn more about the Rio Grande and Elephant Butte here.

Demand management through conservation

Through water conservation programs and careful pricing strategies, EPWater has reduced the amount of water used per person per day. In 1970, a typical resident was using 225 gallons of water compared to 128 gallons per person per day in 2018. The City of El Paso adopted a Conservation Ordinance in 1991, and since then, the population has increased but overall water production is down. See conservation for more information.  


Water production chart

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