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Sonoran Institute to Invest in a New River Improvement Project


With an investment of 4.3 million dollars, the Sonoran Institute will take a very important step towards the recovery of the North Collector Drain, which will have a great impact on the environment and the population. This was announced in the presence of the Mexicali Mayor Norma Bustamante Martínez during the beginning of the next phase of the “Mexicali Fluye” project.

Richard Schaefer, president of the board of directors of Sonoran Institute said this project consists of two main components and has a duration of three years. First, Sonoran Institute will develop and implement a 4.82-kilometer (three-mile) test phase, with nature-based solutions, where in-stream treatment will be carried out to improve the water quality of the New River.

Second, a Master Plan will be developed to rehabilitate 64.37 kilometers (40 miles) of river that will integrate lessons learned from the testing phase and provide a plan to replicate nature-based solutions and improve the water quality of the New River to basin scale. The project will build on knowledge gained from Sonoran Institute’s previous efforts to improve urban wetland habitat.

“Thanks to a $4.3 million grant from the California Water Boards, our ambitious testing phase will lay the foundation to create a Master Plan for Mexicali that completely revitalizes the drain system,” he said.

According to data from the International Boundary and Water Commission (IBWC) and the Mexicali State Public Services Commission (CESPM), the New River is one of the most polluted in the world. The water quality parameters of most concern are the high concentration of coliforms and E. coli, as well as the high concentration of organic matter measured indirectly by biological demand and oxygen chemistry.

“I am very grateful to be here today to celebrate the launch of this important project,” said State Water Board member Sean Maguire. “We are not only celebrating positive progress toward restoring the persistently polluted New River but also an exciting new level of cross-border collaboration within this project to rehabilitate and preserve the rivers we share.”

The challenges are many and range from water pollution associated with the flows of untreated wastewater, to industrial and domestic waste deposited on the banks and in the channels of drains, the air pollution from burning garbage and the health risks associated with vector-borne diseases, water scarcity, and an unpleasant urban landscape.

Approximately 7,500 people live through the North Collector Drain, in the demonstration project area, and almost 2.5 million cubic meters of water flow annually.

The solutions will consist of in-stream treatment, the development of green corridors, comprehensive hydrological, ecological, and social monitoring, active collaboration with various stakeholders, and a communication campaign.

To communicate transparently and efficiently, Sonoran Institute will conduct a New River Landscape Observatory, the main outcome of which will be an annual written report on the living river with clear and relevant data on environmental quality in a practical and attractive design. Another outcome will be an open digital platform where all stakeholders and the general public can access data.

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