Conservation passion defines career

Conservation passion defines career
Posted on 08/05/2022
Padilla helped transform Willie the Waterdrop into a water conservation ambassador.

Water Conservation/TecH2O Manager Anai Padilla hit the ground running when she first came to the water utility 28 years ago. The city conservation ordinance was 3 years old, and the new Water Conservation Manager dove right into new water utility rebate programs – toilet, landscape, washing machine, air conditioning.

Customers embraced water conservation and responded enthusiastically. However, nothing prepared her for the overwhelming public response to the high-efficiency showerhead giveaway, with customers waiting in their cars for hours to get two free high-efficiency units. The public’s appetite for water conservation was clear.

“We didn’t realize that people were lining up even before we started distribution,” Padilla said. “We created traffic chaos in El Paso just because customers wanted to pick up two free showerheads. It was awesome.”

Establishing a career

Padilla cited working on EPWater's parade floats as a fun favorite project.As she prepared to retire, Padilla reflected on the rewarding work over her lengthy career that gave her many opportunities to share her passion on water conservation.  

Before the utility, Padilla had built a career in water conservation at Texas A&M research center and El Paso County. The young mother took a job at the utility when enforcement of the conservation ordinance was new and educational programs were barely getting off the ground. When the TecH2O Learning Center was built in 2007 to foster an understanding and appreciation of water management in the Chihuahuan Desert, Padilla took the helm as Manager.  

“I loved leading the development of the center and its content,” Padilla said. “I had a lot of projects, but I really enjoyed working on the TecH2O and bringing the center to life. I loved promoting it.”

Padilla wished she had more time to devote to the Desert Blooms El Paso guide on the TecH2O website. The ambitious project offers a virtual garden tour and garden gallery to draw inspiration for landscapes, as well helpful resources and tips.

“I received a grant from the Bureau of Reclamation for $45,000 to do it,” she said. “It was amazing.”

Padilla thrived in various projects at the utility where her creativity was on full display – parade floats, keyhole gardens and the Hospice of El Paso’s annual Celebrity Waiters Luncheon are just some.  

The way ahead

 Water Conservation/TecH2O Manager Anai Padilla will retire from El Paso Water after 28 years of service. Padilla receives a plaque from President/CEO John Balliew.Padilla is proud of the hard work she has done during her tenure to get El Paso to embrace conservation. El Paso has reduced its water consumption overall by 30%, thanks to an aggressive conservation program, rate structure and ordinance adopted more than 30 years ago.  

The strategy for conservation must be different going forward, Padilla said.

“When I started nothing was really available to customers, so they were eager to take part in our rebates and promotions,” she said. “Now everything on the market is more efficient, including new homes. It’s a little harder now to improve conservation, but we still have a lot of cloth to cut with the initiative for commercial customers.”  

Aside from Willie the Waterdrop, Padilla will miss dedicated and talented staff at the TecH2O and El Paso Water, as well as the job itself.

“I really enjoyed what I was doing, and the Water Conservation Program is really close to my heart,” said Padilla who raised her children while at the utility into successful adults. “When my kids were young, I could not wait to get back to them and spend the weekend with them. But on Mondays, I also couldn’t wait to get back to work because I was going to do something that I like.”

Padilla would like to see the TecH2O staff continue its educational outreach on conservation to young students.

“We need to get conservation in their brains,” she said. “Those kids are going to be our future customers in 10 years or so and they can carry forward what we taught them.”

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