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El Paso could get enough water to sustain the city for a century with the acquisition of about 25,000 acres in Dell Valley that the city is negotiating to buy. This is part of a long-term water importation plan that could cost half a billion dollars.
According to a report by David Crowder in the El Paso Times, the El Paso Water Utilities' Public Service Board approved a letter of intent Monday to enter negotiations with three major landowners and others they represent for the option to buy about 40 percent of the farm land around Dell City in adjacent Hudspeth County.
Ed Archuleta, the utility's general manager, said water that will come from that land along with water from an additional 29,000 acres the city has arranged to buy southeast of Dell Valley will add about 75,000 acre-feet of water a year to the city's available resources.
Today, the city uses about 115,000-acre-feet of water per year. About half of that came from the Rio Grande before a long drought in northern New Mexico and southern Colorado sharply reduced water flow into Elephant Butte Reservoir, which holds about 10 percent of its capacity now.
An acre-foot of water equals 325,829 gallons, or about enough to meet a household's needs for about two years.
Monday's announcement marked a shift in emphasis by the water utility from reliance on the Rio Grande to more dependable underground resources to ensure El Paso's future.
Archuleta estimated the cost in coming years for land in and around the Dell Valley, pipelines and water-treatment facilities at $400 million to $500 million.
Mayor Joe Wardy said the city will not be looking for any deals with the state's General Land Office, which has been embroiled in controversy for opening talks with the Rio Bravo group for the purchase of water from beneath state lands in West Texas.
The city can go through the board to finance the purchases and construction by selling bonds at the lowest interest rates and best terms available, Archuleta said.