Now That’s a Clean River

Good news, everybody.

From a May 6, 2022, story on

El Paso Water completed cleanup on the Rio Grande this week, with several weeks to spare before irrigation season.

The utility announced Friday all contaminated soil has been removed from the river. The soil is now deposited in mounds on the riverbank and will be removed by truck in the coming weeks. El Paso Water had committed to thoroughly cleaning the riverbed before the start of irrigation season June 1 to ensure farmers receive clean water.

. . .

From August 2021 to January 2022, El Paso Water diverted sewage into the Rio Grande because of a wastewater main break on El Paso’s West side. Since the new pipeline was connected and sewage stopped flowing into the riverbed, the utility has lead clean-up on the Rio Grande and adjoining canals.

I took this picture from the top of the Paso del Norte bridge on May 13, a week after El Paso Times reporter Martha Pskowski wrote that piece.

Does that look like they cleaned up the river?

We used to be able to see the concrete from the top of the bridge. Now, there appears to be about six inches of sludge in the concrete riverbed.

I’m guessing that El Paso Water only cleaned the river up to the point where the American Dam diverts water into the canal for El Paso’s farmers. Right before the river becomes the border, over there below the old Asarco site, south of the railroad bridge.

But El Paso Water says it’s done. They’ve finished cleaning up the mess they caused by pouring 100 million gallons of raw sewage into the river every day for more than three months. More than a billion gallons. Of raw sewage.

I hear the river goes dry somewhere down there by McNary, or Fort Hancock. I guess that’s good. And downtown, the river doesn’t smell like poo anymore.


  1. Nothing to worry about because there is no water in the river or much to put in it with the reservoir at 13.3%. Under our current climate scenario of extended drought the aquifer will run dry in 30 to 40 years. Will Rogers once remarked that the Rio Grande was the only river he knew that needed irrigation.

    I attended a session on Rights of Nature last week in San Francisco at the Bioneers Conference and met several Indian lawyers, one Ojibwa and one Ho Chunk (from near Green Bay so we had a lot to talk about). Did you know that a tribal entity as a nation can enact RoN laws, like a river has a right to exist independent of what the upstream folks think about who “owns” the water.

    In the right hands, that could cause a lot of trouble here 🙂

    1. I reckon all the water in the river in downtown El Paso/Juarez is released by El Paso Water. The last time I was at the riverbed upstream, it was dry. And a park employee at Big Bend told me that the river goes dry again at Fort Hancock.

  2. Generally, all water west of the Mississippi is owned by the farmers. Although, EPW says that water released from sewage treatment plants belongs to EPW, BUT if the farmers want it they get it.
    It would be nice if EPW would give the water from the sewage treatment plant to El Paso largest park – the Rio Bosque Wetlands Park.

    1. Judy, how is the Bosque? Doesn’t it get water from a water treatment plants nearby?

      I’ve got to get out there again.


      1. I was there in March for International Water Week event. Dry as a bone. There is a small pump that keeps a few CFS running pending seasonal release of water from the adjacent filtration plant.

      2. Rio Bosque now has 300 acres of water rights from EPCWID. The bosque now gets water both from the treatment plant and from the irrigation allotments, so within the next week they will see a lot more water flowing.
        As to this blog post, El Paso Water is not the only entity that’s dumped sewage and other undesirable liquids into the Rio. The problem is far from over, this longer article I wrote goes into some of those issues:

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