760.329.6448 - Call 24 hours a day for emergency service
Click here to register your account.

MSWD Home | Contact Us | My Account

We take security seriously. That's why all of our pages are monitored, encrypted, and secured with the latest technologies.


Water - The Jewel Of The Desert - Treasure It!

Water truly is the jewel in our desert, and MSWD is dedicated to protecting and preserving the quality of our most valuable natural resource. The community made its equally strong desire to protect its precious water known when it passed by popular vote Assessment District 11, which was completed in February of 2006, and Assessment District 12, a project now underway and estimated for completion in 2014. These projects are a part of MSWD's Groundwater Quality Protection Project, whose goal is to eliminate individual wastewater disposal systems (septic tanks) and extend the municipal wastewater collection (sewer) system to over 6,600 properties in the Desert Hot Springs area.

Threat of Contamination - In 1996, MSWD commissioned the United States Geological Survey (USGS) and Michigan Technological University to conduct a study on the migration of wastewater discharged from septic tanks and the effects, or potential effects, the discharging had on regional groundwater resources. The study, "Transport of Contaminates from Wastewater Disposal Systems near Mission Creek Sub Basin, Desert Hot Springs, CA," identified thousands of individual septic systems that lie above the Mission Creek (cold water) and Desert Hot Springs (hot water) aquifers. The study concluded that wastewater discharged from individual septic systems poses a significant threat to the public groundwater resources found within the greater Desert Hot Springs area, and recommended the abatement of these individual wastewater disposal systems.

MSWD's Groundwater Quality Protection Project - MSWD's Groundwater Quality Protection Project involves constructing municipal wastewater collection and treatment systems that will eliminate the individual septic systems that overlie the Mission Creek and Desert Hot Springs aquifers, protecting the quality of our water for the generations to come. Phase I of the project, Assessment District 11, was completed in 2006. Phase II of the project, Assessment District 12, requires building over 57 miles of wastewater pipelines over the next five to seven years and eliminating roughly 4,000 individual septic systems. Rapid growth in the area has brought with it an abundance of new individual septic systems and MSWD is working hard towards its goal of eliminating at least 600 individual septic systems annually.

Documents Related to AD12 Project Funding - MSWD has made significant entrepreneurial efforts in securing funding for the Groundwater Quality Protection Project. Through formation of AD12, local residents agreed to contribute $28 million toward the project, and MSWD diligently pursues funding from sources such as State Water Bonds and regional and Federal grants. The project focuses on long-term water supply and groundwater quality issues within MSWD service areas, addressing water supply protection, water reclamation, entrepreneurial funding strategies and underground storage capacity protection.

Facts About Septic Systems

3 Most Important Septic System Facts

Fact 1: More than 55% of MSWD households use individual septic systems (on-site sewage treatment systems) to treat their wastewater.
Fact 2: Septic systems protect human health and the environment by safely recycling wastewater back into the natural environment.

Fact 3: You are responsible for operating and maintaining your septic system.

Approximately 5,500 customers within the District’s service area use individual septic systems for wastewater treatment. This has been the predominant method of wastewater disposal for over five decades. Since the mid-1970s, MSWD has been concerned about the possible contamination of the local groundwater basin from tank seepage and the community’s continued reliance on septic systems. In 1997, the District determined that key improvements to its sewer collection system would be needed to protect its local drinking water supplies and local economy.

Recently, District voters approved the formation of a $58 million sewer assessment district (AD12). This project is designed to remove existing septic tank systems and to finance the costs of additional improvements to the District sewer system. The “yes” vote assured $28 million dollars in funding; now MSWD is working to secure the matching funds needed to bring the project’s funding total to the $57 million needed to complete the project. At the same time, the District is working on the engineering and construction logistics of bringing sewers to the thousands of parcels that need them. While this project may take several years to complete, we believe the goal is within our reach and we are in the process of making it happen.

Septic System Maintenance - The District appreciates your patience and understanding as it works to complete the design and construction of AD12. In the interim, property owners will need to continue to operate and maintain their individual septic tanks until the District is ready to connect their home to the sanitary sewer collection system. Learn more about the correct maintenance of your septic system by visiting the MSWD lobby for a free copy of “The Care and Feeding of Your Septic System” brochure or by checking out this University of Minnesota information page  or these brochures from the University of Arizona:

Horton Wastewater Treatment Plant (HWTP)


As early as 1954, local citizens petitioned for sewer service. The cost, however, was prohibitive. But growth brought an overload to the septic systems and health hazards to the community. In 1970 the Board of Directors voted to move ahead with plans to apply for a federal grant and build a sewage treatment plant. In 1972 the District built the Alan L. Horton Wastewater Treatment Plant, named after a longtime Board member who was instrumental in bringing wastewater collections and treatment to Desert Hot Springs.

Beginning with the capacity to process 200,000 gallons of wastewater a day, the Horton Wastewater Treatment Plant has been expanded four times to today's capacity of 2 million gallons a day (MGD). The plant has received numerous awards over the years, including Plant of the Year in 1989, 1991, 1992, 1996, 2004 and 2006; Collections Systems of the Year in 1992 and 2006; State Safety Award in 1992 and numerous Operator of the Year and Collection Systems Person of the Year awards. The most recent awards won are:

2007 Awards:
  • Plant Operator of the Year - Chris Jacobson, Grade II Operator
2006 Awards:
  • Plant of the Year: 1-5 MGD category - this is the 6th win for the HWTP
  • Collections System of the Year: 0 - 249 miles category
  • Collection System Person of the Year: Lead Operator Lee Boyer
  • Supervisor of the Year: Chief Plant Operator Wayne Robertson, an 18-year employee of the District
These awards were presented to the plant's staff by the Colorado River Basin Section (CORBS) of the California Water Environment Association (CWEA) at their annual awards dinner held at the Fantasy Springs Casino Events Center.

Looking Ahead

Continued growth and development in the Desert Hot Springs area brings with it the need for further expansion of wastewater collections and treatment systems. The District has already been looking at possible expansion projects which would enable the facility to treat 3 - 5 million gallons per day (MGD) of wastewater as the need arises.

Other objectives in the District's wastewater treatment expansion plans are the implementation of new and upgraded technology which will effectively control odors and grease at the existing facilities and to have a plan in place for future tertiary reclaimed water options. These objectives are expected to be in place at the plant in 2009.

Take a virtual tour of the Horton Wastewater Treatment Plant .
Click here if you need to download the free PowerPoint slideshow viewer.


Water Supply Protection - eliminating known pollution sources, such as individual septic tanks, and constructing wastewater collection and treatment systems.
Water Reclamation - reduction of overall groundwater demand and maximum efficient usage of groundwater resources including utilizing recycled water for all non-potable applications.

Tertiary - Tertiary treatment removes nutrients, heavy metals and chemical contaminants through a microfiltering process.

Reclaimed Water - Product produced by tertiary treatment of wastewater.