Agua Vida SMA water conservation campaign

By Agustín Madrigal

Given the environmental problems in the Upper Rio Laja watershed and the drastically reduced levels of ground water within the aquifer (from 2 to 10 meters per year), a water conservation campaign in San Miguel de Allende was announced on March 23 at El Charco del Ingenio, led by the Citizens’ Observatory for Water and Sanitation (OCAS), composed of residents of San Miguel de Allende and several NGOs such as Rotary Club, Salvemos al Río Laja, Amigos de la Presa, El Charco del Ingenio, GAIA, Vía Orgánica, FAI-Cercaly and Audubon Society of Mexico. All sectors of the population were invited to engage in a determined and integrated citizens’ collective action.

Facts presented by the prestigious geologist Dr. Adrián Ortega, of the UNAM Geosciences Center, who addressed the audience, reinforce the urgency of taking immediate action. The 16 wells that serve our area draw water that is thousands of years old and carries a risk of containing high levels of contaminants such as fluoride, arsenic and sodium. In the past 12 years the extraction of this water has grown exponentially, which deteriorates the quality and quantity of water. Drilling new wells could even leave entire communities, such as La Cieneguita and Los Rodríguez, without water.

The president of El Charco del Ingenio, César Arias, and its director, Mario Hernández, explained the meaning and purpose of OCAS, and members of educational and institutional committees, Frank Gaydos, Patricia Cardona and Muriel Logan, spoke about the various activities of the Agua Vida SMA campaign that will be developed throughout this year.

The campaign aims to inform and engage not only the general population but also government officials to develop a fundamental strategy for domestic and public reuse of water through a minimum and basic treatment of all sewage. Another strategy is rainwater collection and the creation of an infrastructure that provides service to all sectors equally, along with the transformation of agricultural irrigation systems, which account for 85 percent of the local water used. “It is up to citizens and residents to be informed and to be in solidarity with the people of Mexico to build communities and sustainable lifestyles,” said Logan.

Agua Vida SMA is based on the right of citizens to benefit from the latest proven technologies to solve water problems. “It is our right, as well, to become familiar with the extraordinary scientific advances, unknown by most, for cleaning water, air and soil of chemical waste, leaving drinking water, clean air to breathe and healthy soil for agriculture,” said Cardona. Talks will be held throughout the year to elaborate the historical causes and immediate solutions to the water crisis and its most dramatic expression, drought and desertification, management of water use in rural and urban areas, inadequate waste treatment, questionable water quality and its impact on health, unequal distribution and water culture and waste.

These broad objectives are accompanied by educational programs in public and private schools, universities and community centers to promote awareness and care of our water. Recognizing its availability, demand and its relation to other natural resources promotes positive attitudes to avoid waste and deterioration in quality and quantity. A well-informed population of younger people will help guarantee the presence of a responsible and proactive future adult population in preserving our vital resources. This task involves continuous education and communication.

Other important targets are hotels, restaurants and businesses. Gaydos recognized the tremendous opportunity for collaboration with the Association of Hoteliers and Restaurateurs and the Municipal Tourism Department to develop workshops and methods for water conservation. “Some hotels have started their own water-saving programs and we’ll use them as models for our campaign. No less important are the door-to-door visits in residential colonias to distribute pamphlets with important scientific information and tips for saving water in the home,” he said.

The Agua Vida SMA message is one of hope and a range of choices to put an end to the misinformation and indifference that paralyzes the general population. “We want to promote a new culture of water and a willingness to involve all sectors of society.”

At the end of the presentations, the audience talked about the need for a strong and supportive citizenry so that solutions to community problems will come about. Dr. Ortega, paraphrasing Albert Einstein, said that the problems we face cannot be resolved with the same mindset that created them.

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