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10th anniversary: TecH2O Center quenches thirst for water education

Anai Padilla remembers the early days of El Paso Water’s conservation program before the seed was planted for the Carlos M. Ramirez TecH2O Water Resources Learning Center.

Padilla was a Water Conservation Manager whose work often required taking her conservation and education pitch on the road, along with conservation mascot Willie the Waterdrop and a team. In the early 1990s, the numerous classrooms she visited became her office, educating the many young students eager to learn about water and conservation.

Education is still Padilla’s favorite thing about her job, except these days the students come to see her at the TecH2O Center, 10751 Montana Ave. In any given year, the center attracts thousands of school-age kids and their teachers through field trips, camps, special events and teacher workshops.

“I love being able to teach and show our side of the [water] story, especially when people visit us for the first time,” she said. “It’s wonderful because you see the light bulb go on. Once you are there with the kids and you see their faces, you can see when they understand a concept.”

Valuable educational resource
Ten years after opening its doors, the TecH2O Center has evolved into one of EPWater’s premier showcases to learn about the Chihuahuan Desert and its resources. It’s also key to educating the next generation of water consumers in El Paso, said John Balliew, President and CEO of EPWater.

“Because our target audience starts at the Kindergarten level, oftentimes we are El Pasoans’ first exposure to water conservation and environmental education,” said Norma L. Guzman, Water Conservation Specialist. “Introducing young kids to conservation efforts through fun, interactive methods helps to keep them engaged. These kids, in turn, help to educate their parents and grandparents.”

“It’s the only place in El Paso where you can learn about our regional water resources, how we clean our water, how we reuse water, how we recharge our aquifers, and how we help sustain the Rio Bosque wetland,” said Water Conservation Technician Dawn Walker-Hughes.

Padilla is grateful for the experience of leading the TecH2O Center and showing El Pasoans a different side of their water utility.

“Because 95 percent of our infrastructure is buried in the ground and people don’t see it, it’s hard for them to place a value on water and our services, Padilla said. “So when we show them information about the pump stations and the water treatment plants, they can put that into context and then they get it.”