Prominent Leader in Regional Water Issues Celebrated through New UTEP Lecture Series
Last Updated on November 09, 2018 at 12:00 AM
Originally published November 09, 2018
By Pablo Villa
One of the region’s most renowned leaders on water issues was celebrated as The University of Texas at El Paso opened a new lecture series to educate the public on challenges affecting the future of the precious resource.
The Edmund G. Archuleta Distinguished Lectureship was established to mark the career of Archuleta, former CEO of El Paso Water Utilities and now director of water initiatives for UTEP’s Center for Environmental Resource Management (CERM). The first lecture in the series took place Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2018, at the Undergraduate Learning Center on the UTEP campus.
The inaugural address, titled “Water Myths and Realities: The Times They Are a Changin,’” was delivered by Michael Hightower, University of New Mexico research professor.
Hightower’s lecture was preceded by an address from UTEP President Diana Natalicio. President Natalicio lauded Archuleta’s contributions to the region through efforts such as the development of the state’s first 50-year water resources plan for El Paso; establishment and diversification of the region’s water portfolio to stabilize the declining Hueco Bolson; acquisition of state and federal funding to bring water service to El Paso County colonias; and construction of the world’s largest desalination plant, among other notable feats.
Hightower said when he was asked to speak at the event, he jumped at the chance to honor his longtime friend and colleague. The title of his lecture is a nod to Archuleta’s contributions to the evolution of water management.
“People probably don’t realize how important Ed has been, nationally and internationally, in moving forward the innovation of water treatment, water supply issues and water management,” Hightower said. “Ed has spent his whole career taking myths about water supplies and changing the reality of water supply, and of long-term economic growth and long-term economic development. He has been doing it in the context of ‘How do we use innovation to develop a secure water energy and economic future for the United States?’”
Hightower highlighted and dispelled four myths about water issues during his address, including the concept of water being an emerging, major economic issue; the impacts of climate change; difficulty of nontraditional water supply technologies; and the difficulty of innovation. Hightower tackled those myths with data culled from 38 years of work at Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque, New Mexico. His focus during the past two decades has been on the use of distributed and renewable energy and water treatment technologies to enhance economic development, global public health, and infrastructure and natural resource security and resiliency.
Archuleta was manager of the El Paso Water Utilities from January 1989 until his retirement in January 2013. He was responsible for all aspects of water, wastewater, reclaimed water service, and stormwater for the greater El Paso metropolitan area. Archuleta joined UTEP in September 2013. He said the campus is in a position to utilize the “living laboratory” at its disposal to evolve and employ total water management strategies.
“I feel UTEP can be a place where people could come and study water, particularly water scarcity techniques,” Archuleta said. “When you consider that we have high population growth, we are in the middle of two countries, three states, and each one has different laws and regulations on how to manage water, it’s hot, it’s dry, and there are limited resources. So, we have to learn how to manage our water.”
Archuleta said UTEP’s role in this effort was bolstered this fall by a nearly $100,000 planning grant awarded by the National Science Foundation to establish a One Water Engineering Research Center on campus. The center hopes to bring together engineers, scientists and stakeholders with a shared vision and unified understanding of water sectors, problems and solutions to arid and semi-arid regions of the Southwest and throughout the world.
“I think with the development of the One Water Center, this lecture series and the support of UTEP President Diana Natalicio, we are building momentum through a number of building blocks to reach that kind of vision,” Archuleta said. “It is an opportunity for our students to come and learn before going out into the workforce, where they will be able to help the next generation of people as we continue to live on this planet and share increasingly limited freshwater sources. We have to learn how to tap nontraditional sources of water like brackish water and seawater.”
The lecture series will be funded through an endowment established in Archuleta’s name. This year’s speaker is a national leader on energy and water issues. Hightower, who worked for 38 years at Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque, New Mexico, said Archuleta’s reputation has helped make significant gains in water and economic fronts.
“My 20-year association with Ed has been tremendous,” Hightower said. “We have done a lot of things together. Any time that a national lab wants to do anything, they always say, ‘Mike, can you call up Ed?’ Because he has connections to everyone. And he is always happy to help out. His heart is in innovation, taking care of people, and providing safe, secure water supplies and economic development opportunities for this region.”