The Water Forum: An Answer is Needed to the Water Issue
By Jesús Aguado
The first well in Guanajuato was drilled at San Luis de la Paz in 1951, and water was found just five meters underground. Currently, drilling to find the liquid has to go down 300 meters and, in communities like Cruz del Palmar in San Miguel, the water is undrinkable due to the high content of manganese.
In 2013, a confidential research conducted by the council of the Water System (SAPASMA) wells was accidentally attached and sent to third parties. Although the reason is not specified, they state water from the wells of La Lejona II and San Julián had a “disgusting color and smell,” according to this file. Felipe Vertiz, president of the SAPASMA council, supplied copies of studies conducted on the same wells in 2015: “that studies state that the quality of the water is within the norm.”
The water in San Miguel de Allende is extracted from the Independencia aquifer, which also serves San José Iturbide. Three children from La Cantera, a rural community located in that municipality, have died from leukemia. The residents there requested an investigation by the Geosciences Institute at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) Their study indicated that the leukemia could have been caused by the alpha radioactivity in the water (radioactivity four times higher than what is permitted by the national norm of 127). However, months later, the National Commission of Water, along with the state, conducted studies that refuted the UNAM investigation. These studies, according to a press release, demonstrated that the water is within the standards of the 127 national norm and, as a consequence, it was safe for human consumption.
In the case of Cruz del Palmar, an indigenous community situated on the new road to Guanajuato, a community well was drilled 14 years ago. However, the water “is black, brown, murky,” according to Marta Ramírez, a resident of the community. The inhabitants knew that there was something wrong with the water and did not drink it, and they sought help from state and local authorities. For years they were ignored. It was not until 2015, when SAPASMA and the National Commission of Water conducted studies, that they found the water to be polluted with manganese. It was not safe for human consumption. The inhabitants had only used the water just for watering plants and cleaning floors. They could not even use it to wash clothes because it left red stains. This problem, according to Vertiz, was solved last year by drilling a new well, “When it is activated, it will provide the community with safe water.”
The facts demonstrate not just the pollution of the water, but also the lack of water is a problem. That is why in San Miguel, a housing development like Cumbres de San Miguel was canceled. There was no availability of water for the high-density population that it could have attracted. The lack of water in the lower part of the city was one of the reasons the BANTERRA development, which would have had 8,000 houses long term, was also canceled.
The Water Forum
According to Mario Hernández, director of El Charco del Ingenio, the topic of water has been discussed at length. He remarked that “saying that the water will be exhausted” is erroneous. He made it clear that in the future, extracted water will be “fossil” water 10–12 thousand years old, which contains more minerals. Hernández also commented that in 2012 Dr. Marcos Ortega from UNAM conducted an investigation of the Independencia Aquifer which proved that there are several elements polluting the water due to over-exploitation. The director said water is necessary for the present and future development of the city, and in some developments there is no certainty of getting it.
Regarding water, what is the future vision of those in the government of Guanajuato? What is society’s commitment? What actions need to be taken to mitigate the lack and pollution of water? How can organized society, the government, and the private sector work to solve this problematic situation? These are just some of the questions that will be answered in the First Water Forum, organized by the Charco del Ingenio to celebrate 25 years since its foundation. The event will take place on March 17 and 18 at El Charco. Hernández said that this event targets the general public and, importantly, the experts on the topic will use very simple language, in order to clarify the situation and examine solutions.
Among the speakers will be Javier Usabiaga, Secretary of Agricultural and Rural Development of the State, as well as one of the main producers of vegetables in SMA. Also giving a talk will be Marcos Ortega from UNAM. Other experts will attend from Mexico City and San Luis Potosí. For more information call 154 88 38.
More Water Facts
In the offices of SAPASMA (Water and Drainage Authority of San Miguel de Allende), 150 employees and the board of councilors made up of five citizen work daily to administer SAPASMA and operate 20 water wells to guarantee vital running water and drainage services for more than 60,000 inhabitants.
In Guanajuato, according to the eighth agricultural census, there are 1,300,730 hectares of agricultural surface. Of those hectares, 33.2 percent are irrigated with potable water, and the rest are planted only during the rainy season. The municipalities with the biggest portions of agricultural land are Pueblo Nuevo, Jaral del Progreso, Santiago Maravatío, Villagrán, Salamanca, Salvatierra, Abasolo, Huanímaro, Celaya, Cortazar, Valle de Santiago, Tarandacuao, Irapuato, and Acámbaro y Purísima del Rincón (51.9 percent of the surface irrigated with potable water). In contrast, municipalities like Ocampo, Xichú, Atarjea, Moroleón Guanajuato, Tierra Blanca, Victoria, Jerécuaro, and Santa Catarina do not have access to potable water for their agricultural production.
El Realito Dam
In 2011, the construction of El Realito Dam in San Luis de la Paz was finished. In an inspection visit in August 2010, then President Felipe Calderón—according to his speech published by the National Commission of Water on its web page—said that this project would provide running water for at least 50 years to Sanmiguelenses and Celayenses. According to CONAGUA, this dam can store close to 50,000,000 cubic meters of water. According to a decree of President Felipe Calderón, of each cubic meter per minute, 16 percent would be destined for San Miguel and 84 percent for Celaya.
In 2014 the dam was filled, and in early 2015 some neighborhoods of San Luis Potosí received water, but soon they complained the water had a strange color, flavor, and smell. The project was unsuccessful and has been on hold since 2015. The infrastructure for directing water to San Miguel, Celaya, and the other municipalities had not been constructed either. What is going to be done?