Watershed and Cities Program – “Todos por el Agua”
Urban and Rural Communities United for the Future of San Miguel de Allende (Part I)
By: Agustín Madrigal Bulnes
The “Watershed and Cities Program III” is a national initiative financed by the Gonzalo Rio Arronte Foundation and the Mexican Fund for the Conservation of Nature. It includes 10 national projects and is headed, in San Miguel de Allende, by the Salvemos al Río Laja (Save the Laja River) Civil Association.
We are facing a serious problem in San Miguel de Allende that may threaten our future if circumstances don’t change. We intend to promote and establish a water culture that involves both the users in the urban area as well as those in the rural areas, in order to change the way in which our water resources are used — at all levels of social life, contributing to the wellbeing of the people who live out in the country as well as those who live in the city.
Our project needs investments and continuous donations to support sub-projects (where volunteers are also needed) oriented towards the conservation of water and soil, the restoration of the habitat, environmental education campaigns and rural training programs.
The Municipality of San Miguel de Allende has a population close to 150,000 people; it is located in the high sub-basin of the Laja River, where the river originates.The Laja is one of the tributary extensions of the Lerma and the Chapala rivers, a great global ecoregion of sweet water, and also the most important water source for the City of Guadalajara, Jalisco. It is a space of evident rural and urban community interdependence, where the supply and quality of water are very important.
Our present situation is the result of continuous past practices that did not consider the consequences.Years of deforestation, over-grazing and extraction of gravel at the Laja River Basin have caused a dramatic reduction in water retention and, consequently, the infiltration of the aquifer due to extreme erosion and soil compacting. It can’t be any other way: expectations related to the quantity and quality of water for San Miguel de Allende are not encouraging.
This region has lost perennial springs and wetlands due to the over-exploitation of the aquifer, especially in agriculture. In this sense, the data is revealing: annually, an average of 700 million cubic meters are extracted while replenishing does not even reach 170 million cubic meters. This inbalance is obviously serious and tends to be grave, which makes it essential to adopt measures for the conservation and restoration of the river basin.
Besides, what is beginning to turn into a growing silent threat for health and soil fertility: the excessive pumping of water is increasing the natural concentration of fluoride as well as sodium, and these are harmful substances at certain levels.