Water Rights Leasing Program to Rio Grande Surface Water

In 1962, the El Paso Water Utilities (EPWU) entered into a contract with the El Paso County Water Improvement District No. 1 (District) for leasing rights to irrigation water from property owners in the Upper Valley, Serial and Ysleta Grants of El Paso County. As part of the water resource management program at EPWU, acquisition of water rights is a necessary strategy to ensure the availability of water resources into the future.

Currently, the Water Rights Leasing Program is available to property owners who own parcels 2.00 acres or less in size inside the City Limits and having water rights. The leases are for 75 years, and under the terms of the agreement EPWU pays all water rights taxes to the District (including any delinquent taxes) and cleans that portion of a community ditch associated with a leased property. As incentive compensation, EPWU pays the property owner a one-time lump sum payment of $2,500 per acre (payment is prorated for actual acreage) within sixty days of approval of a lease by the District. All leases are carried with the property to successive owners, and are filed at the County Clerk's Office. At the end of the 75 year term, the surface water rights revert back to the property owner of record unless a lease is renewed. The annual water rights tax savings available to landowners through leasing is approximately $30.00 per acre.

The figure below shows the land areas along the Rio Grande River within the City limits that have rights to raw, or untreated, irrigation water from the Rio Grande Project.

Water Rights Map

El Paso has been obtaining most of its water supply from ground water from the Hueco Bolson. Because of concerns that the Hueco someday would be depleted, El Paso completed a Water Resource Management Plan in 1991. The Plan calls for increased use of the Rio Grande, which mandates that the EPWU acquire additional rights to surface water. Most areas in El Paso can be served by both surface water and ground water, which is desirable for backup and redundancy. In effect, all water users in the city benefit from EPWU acquiring additional surface water rights.