Sufficient water, but not for all

By Antonio De Jesús Aguado

Yearly more than nine million cubic meters of water are used in the city’s urban area, an average of 200 liters daily per person, whereas in the rural and marginal communities entire families have to survive with 1,200 liters weekly. In some communities, others have learned how to survive one year with 12,000 liters of collected rainwater.

Ulises Valenzuela, president of the SAPASMA council (Sistema de Agua Potable y Alcantarillado de San Miguel de Allende), told Atención that the water authority office works with a budget of 85 million pesos, paid by 27,000 families for the use of water and drainage. Water is extracted from 18 wells located in different neighborhoods, one of them in the rural community of San Julián, right behind the Presidencia building. The area of El Centro is supplied with water from three wells, located at the Rosewood hotel and in colonias Guadalupe and Guadiana. The president of SAPASMA also mentioned that San Miguel has more than 500 rural communities and fewer than 200 have potable water and are supplied by 133 wells.

Valenzuela remarked that the quality of water in San Miguel is good and there is no lack of it although it must be used responsibly and those who use it ought to pay for it. Valenzuela highlighted that last year using equipment that measures the water pressure in specific areas, they found 300 clandestine water lines. They also discovered that a tanker truck with a 10,000-liter capacity

was being illegally filled and the water sold. This case is currently in the court system. From January to May of this year SAPASMA has found 320 illegal water lines, and the president invited people to denounce those who steal our water.

In February of this year, SAPASMA was criticized by residents of the upper area of the city due to lack of water; they had to buy purified water not just for drinking but also to wash dishes and even for the toilet. They registered their complaints directly at the SAPASMA office but said they received poor attention. Some employees of the system who asked to remain anonymous at that time commented that the lack of water could be due to the existence of clandestine valves and also because the water was illegally directed to hotels or private properties.

On that matter, Valenzuela commented that the lack of water in the area was due to low pressure following the break of a main pipe in colonia La Luz; it was not easy to repair and for that reason the residents suffered a water shortage for two weeks. The president made it clear that there are no clandestine valves and in matters of water supply preference is not given to anyone. He also noted that the well of San Julián is currently not working effectively and a new one will be drilled in the months to come in order to offer better service. Regarding the SAPASMA employees who treated those who complained badly, Valenzuela said that they were relocated and now they do not have contact with customers.

Tanker trucks of the Public Services Department

Only 70 of the 300 rural communities that do not have a well are supported by the Public Services Department. That department has nine tanker trucks with a capacity of 10,000 liters and one that holds 20,000 liters. The water is delivered weekly, every two weeks or monthly to communities such as Guerrero,

La Estancia, Los Torres, Puerta del Aire and Tierra Blanca de Abajo, among others.

Ex-hacienda de Peña Blanca is located on the road to Guanajuato. The community has a tank with a capacity of 12,000 liters that is filled by a tanker truck every month, but it is not enough water to supply all the residents.

In communities such as Guerrero every family receives two tanks of 250 liters weekly. In other communities such as Cinco Señores people survive with the water from a branch of the Laja River. The shortage of water is not exclusive to the rural communities; some neighborhoods in the city such as Lomas de San José or colonia Adolfo López Mateos also have inadequate water supplies.

Thursday, May 8, was a rainy morning, but as he does every day Juan Carlos Cardiel went to the well in colonia Guadalupe to fill the tanker truck and provide water service to colonia Adolfo López Mateos. On his second round, Atención talked with Cardiel, who said that people in that neighborhood are very poor and as time passes there are more people living there. Although it was raining, Cardiel honked his horn and from a house made of plastic bags and rags came Adolfo Chavarría to fill 11 containers with a capacity of 250 liters each. That water is used by four families living in the house but does not last more than four days. According to Chavarría in the neighborhood there are no plans for drilling a well because it is not a properly registered neighborhood

From another house came Guadalupe Ramírez, who received 1,500 liters. She said that the water is adequate for her household needs, even for washing clothes. She added that although it is enough water, she needs to ration it carefully because when they use it all before the next tanker truck comes she has to ask for water to drink in other neighborhoods. She also commented that there is a water vending tank, not from Public Services Department, that charges 20 pesos for every 250 liters of water. “Honestly, I do not have money to buy it,” she said. The stories from residents of all the houses in the neighborhood were similar.

Rainwater harvesting

In the community of Villas de Guadalupe an elevated tank was built in 2003 in order to bring potable water from Corralejo for the inhabitants. The local administration along with SAPASMA installed the network, but the water never came. For that reason the inhabitants wrote on the tank, located next to the road to Guanajuato, “This tank is dry. It has never had water.” Valenzuela said that a well has been drilled and although it has not been equipped yet the community will have water before this administration ends.

Hipólito Mendoza lives in Villas de Guadalupe, which has been benefited with the construction of a tank for rainwater harvesting. Mendoza said that it was built by the Rotary Club and thanks to the recent rains the tank is half-full.

Alejandro Guerra, from the Rotary Club, said that the structures located near the roofs of the houses are made of iron and concrete. In seven years, the organization has built 600 tanks at a cost of 9,000 pesos each. Eighteen of these tanks with a capacity of 12,000 liters have also been constructed in schools. SAPASMA is financing 9 of 18 tanks being built in the community of Peña Blanca.


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