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The New River and the Salton Sea – Revisited

Las Arrenitas

Las Arenitas

Back in June of 2012, we wrote about Mexicali’s New River flowing into the United States dumping wastewater into the Salton Sea. The blog was entitled The New River and the Salton Sea.

I am now happy to report that this is no longer the case.

If there is one place that transforms wastewater from an environmental hazard to an environmental benefit, it is Mexicali’s new Las Arenitas Waste Water Treatment Plant.

At the Las Arenitas plant, urban wastewater that once made a  health hazard of the New River is now creating a wondrous wetland and bird-watchers’ paradise in the northwest corner of the Colorado River Delta.

Located about 16 miles southeast of the border city of Mexicali, Las Arenitas receives nearly 20 million gallons of Mexicali’s wastewater every day. At Las Arenitas, the wastewater undergoes physical, biological, and chlorination processes to remove bacteria and other harmful pollutants.

The present day New River which flows from Mexico into the United States was created in 1905-07 when the Colorado River flooded and its waters rushed into the Salton Basin creating the New River and the present Salton Sea.

Currently, the New River’s headwaters originate about 15 miles south of the City of Mexicali, in the Mexicali Valley, Mexico. The New River carries urban runoff, untreated and partially treated municipal wastes, untreated and partially treated industrial wastes, and agricultural runoff from the Mexicali Valley into the United States. After it crosses the International Boundary at Calexico, California, the New River travels about 60 miles through Imperial County before it discharges its entire flow into the Salton Sea. By the time the New River reaches the Salton Sea, about 2/3 of its flow consists of wastewater in the form of agricultural runoff from Imperial County.

Las Arenitas was designed to prevent any remaining untreated municipal sewage in Mexicali from being discharged into the New River and flowing into the United States emptying into the Salton Sea. Thanks to Las Arenitas, 15-20 million gallons per day of raw sewage that were routinely dumped into the New River at the Border have been eliminated.

Monitoring data show that New River bacteria were significantly reduced by about ten times, reducing pollution levels to below detection limits.

Las Arenitas is now making its contribution to the saving of the Salton Sea.

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