The Christian Science Monitor : 2019-02-11
16 : 16 : 16
SCIENCE&NATURE A talk about LeBron James, or film buffs about Federico Fellini – once- in- a- generation figures who transformed their professions.
There were few, if any, conservation programs under way when Mr. Archuleta joined El Paso Water (EPW) in 1989. The city’s population had doubled in three decades, and in some areas the Hueco was dropping two or three feet a year.
“That was unsustainable, obviously,” says Archuleta.
He opened and expanded wastewater treatment plants. He bought land north and west of the city to preserve the groundwater supply. In 2007, the utility opened the largest inland desalination plant in the world to treat the Hueco’s brackish groundwater.
Probably his crowning achievement was the wholesale culture shift he engineered in El Paso water use. Excess users were named, shamed, and fined. Water cops patrolled the streets, and a generation of children grew up learning about water conservation from Willie the Water Drop, a smiley blue mascot with a red bandanna who visited local at the time and part of a team of academics who used the data to model how both cities were using their groundwater.
“It was just odd for these two agencies to be sharing information with each other. That was my feeling as a student,” he recalls. Today, Mr. Trejo is the EPW’s chief technical officer, and says there’s “a genuine trust between the agencies.” The EPW talks once or twice a year with JMAS, the Juárez utility.
“If either one of us mismanages the aquifer or has poor data or incorrect data associated with it, it’ll lead toward poor decisions that will affect them and will ultimately affect us, or vice versa,” he says.
“There’s no doubt that [Juárez] is going to have to do everything that we’re doing at some point,” he says. CIUDAD JUÁREZ, MEXICO; AND EL PASO, TEXAS t the northern end of the Chihuahuan Desert two cities are both divided and united by water.
The Rio Grande helped form the town of Paso del Norte in the 1700s, but centuries later it became the border between El Paso, Texas, and Ciudad Juárez, Mexico.
Beneath the ground, however, the two cities still share the Hueco Bolson aquifer. In the arid climate, fresh groundwater from the aquifer has been crucial in helping them grow. In recent decades they have been helping each other study and manage the resource as it becomes even more important in the face of climate change.
Aquifers are difficult to manage even in the best of circumstances – they can stretch for thousands of miles, sink for thousands of feet, and they’re entirely underground. When you’re measuring something that crosses an international border it becomes even more difficult. Predicting how much it could hold in the future is more difficult still, which is the main thing officials in El Paso LIVING TOGETHER Water as a human right? On a chilly early December morning in Puerto de Anapra, a poor Juárez neighborhood about 2-1/2 miles due west of UTEP, ONE BORDER CRISIS AVERTED? As water scarcity fuels conflicts around the world, sister cities along the US-Mexican border have found mutual success by working together. BY HENRY GASS STAFF WRITER THE CITIES OF EL PASO, TEXAS, AND CIUDAD JUÁREZ, MEXICO, (BOTH SEEN HERE) SHARE THE HUECO BOLSON AQUIFER, A CRITICAL SOURCE OF FRESH WATER. and Juárez have been trying to do since they began working together in the mid-1980s.
With surface water from the Rio Grande becoming increasingly unreliable – due in large part to climate change, experts say – extending the life of the Hueco is becoming increasingly important.
“The aquifer doesn’t recognize borders,” says Zhuping Sheng, director of the Texas A&M AgriLife Research Center in El Paso, “so both sides have to come up with solutions to better manage and share the resources.” schools. In 1985, El Pasoans were using on average 205 gallons of water a day. By 2001, average daily usage dropped to 155 gallons per person, and by 2017 to just 128.
Archuleta was also the first water manager in El Paso to reach out to water managers in Juárez. Before then, the two cities communicated through the International Boundary and Water Commission.
“It was very slow to get any information going back and forth, so I just went directly to the [Juárez] water utility,” he says. “We shared data. We began to have regular meetings.”
Gilbert Trejo was a graduate student at the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) residents line up outside a small concrete booth, waiting to fill up empty 5-gallon jugs with drinking water.
Juárez differs in many ways from El Paso when it comes to managing its share of the Hueco – the city’s entire drinking water supply comes from the aquifer, for one – but here may be the starkest difference. Policing water use in El Paso was a challenge, but charging El Pasoans for water never has been. In Mexico water is considered a human right.
It sounds noble, but some water experts in Juárez see it differently. Humberto Uranga, head of water culture and communication at JMAS in Juárez, calls it “free water.”
“Water is a human right, but every human Leading the way Water experts in the Southwest talk about Edmund Archuleta the way basketball fans 16 THE CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR WEEKLY FEBRUARY 11, 2019 | PRINTED AND DISTRIBUTED BY PRESSREADER PressReader.com +1 604 278 4604 ORIGINAL COPY . ORIGINAL COPY . ORIGINAL COPY . ORIGINAL COPY . ORIGINAL COPY . ORIGINAL COPY COPYRIGHT AND PROTECTED BY APPLICABLE LAW
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