Need for changing crops and activities to save water
By Muriel Bevilacqua Logan
The first Water Dialogue of the AguaVida SMA Water awareness campaign was held on Tuesday, May 28, in the patio of the University of León, San Miguel campus, on the Plaza Cívica. A group of concerned citizens and students agreed that more dialogue is needed with academic and practical experts and with the relevant authorities at all levels of our government to understand what steps are being taken to address the water issues and what we as residents can do as well.
We heard a concise lecture by Dr. Juan Manuel Huerta Tolis and then engaged in an animated dialogue, monitored by Agustin Madrigal, Director of Salvemos al Rio Laja, A.C., a local environmental organization.
Dr. Huerta is a prestigious and experienced professor of electrical engineering at Northeastern University in Boston and of the graduate program in engineering at the Instituto Tecnológico de Monterrey, as well as advisor to the Instituto de Estadistica, Geografía e Información de México (INEGI). He is also advisor to many departments and commissions in both countries, including the Comisión Nacional del Agua, Comisión Estatal del Agua de Guanajuato (CEAG) and the Climate Reality Project directed by Al Gore.
Dr. Huerta pointed out that the national water laws state clearly that water for human consumption has to be the number-one priority. Having studied aquifers and watershed systems worldwide and the aquifers of Guanajuato State for many years, Dr. Huerta brings a broad understanding of the issues surrounding the diminishing quantity and quality of water in our area. He stated that, in view of the water deficit we face, we will have to change our crops and activities. In the other driest areas of Mexico, such as the Laguna Basin in Durango State, they have already had to designate water from one major dam only for drinking water and not for crops, in spite of their large milk industry and previous dependence on local alfalfa for feeding the cows. They will have to import alfalfa and the price of milk will rise. But there is no other option; the water resource for drinking must take priority.
Dr. Huerta says our aquifers and watersheds may be the most studied in Mexico, with the most academic models. Consequently, much is known about the reduced quantity and quality of the well water due to a concentration of minerals in the remaining low levels of the aquifer. What is often missing is an understanding of the complex interrelations of demographics, agriculture, water use in cities and rural areas, industry, overexploitation and pollution of surface and groundwater from all these areas. We now must develop a more integrated vision of how to manage and protect our diminishing water resources.
In the southern part of Guanajuato, where the largest agriculture and agribusiness takes place, many wells are already dry in some seasons. Comonfort, just south of San Miguel, is already experiencing the need for families to change their productive activities if their wells are not producing. Several other areas have detected serious levels of fluoride, arsenic and disadvantageous PH levels. In the north of our state some areas have had to stop using well water with too much sodium for irrigation.
Huerta explained that most of the water resources in Mexico are found below 800 meters above sea level, but most of the population is above. Also, the surface water has been drastically reduced by changing climate patterns with short periods of heavy rains followed by long periods of no rain and much more erratic patterns than in the past. Thus, the way we manage the surface water must change too, as Dr. Huerta explained. We can no longer build large dams as we did when we had solid statistics on long months of rain.
On June 25 at the University of León campus in San Miguel de Allende (Insurgentes 1), from 5–7pm, the Water Dialogue will address the issue of desertification and its impact on rural communities and agriculture activity, as well as the loss of soil and ecosystems, affecting the local flora and wildlife. The scientific expert Dr. Juan Morales-Malacara from the Center of Geosciences/UNAM in Querétaro and other well–known authorities will be the main speakers. To register for the mailing list and learn more about the Aguavida campaign, visit www.aguavidasma.org.