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Community’s Restoration Efforts Could Replenish Depleted Centro Groundwater

Henry Miller

Presa filtrante

Works performed at Doña Juana

By Jesús Aguado

Doña Juana ejidatarios’ ambitious project to restore their soil and groundwater reserves could also make thousands of cubic meters of rainwater available to Historic Center users.

Doña Juana is a rural community in the San Miguel de Allende municipality communally owned and controlled by 39 ejidatarios. The Spanish term refers to shareholders in this Mexican type of communally-owned land, known as an ejido. The Dona Juana ejidatarios also communally own 3,000 heads of livestock.

Soil in Doña Juana is falling prey to erosion and flooding, depleting it of nutrients and preventing groundwater systems from replenishing with rainwater. Hotels, restaurants, homes, and businesses in the Historic Center also draw upon these groundwater systems.

To combat these twin problems of erosion and flooding, the ejidatarios—with assistance from Henry Miller, president of the El Maíz más Pequeño environmental organization and financial sponsorship by the Gonzalo Río Arronte Foundation—are building mortarless stone walls by hand in Doña Juana, a centuries-old technique to stop the erosion and encourage filtration of rainwater into groundwater systems.

The idea for the project came out of several informational studies conducted in 2006 by the local government’s Environmental and Ecology Department to understand rainwater harvest and groundwater filtration in the area, Miller said. El Maíz más Pequeño obtained the studies’ results from the government and began looking into what could be done about soil and water problems in the area. It eventually handed off the results of the studies to the Río Arronte Foundation so that Rio Arronte could apply for funds for the project in Doña Juana.

The residents began constructing artificial filtering dams in January. They have already constructed 911 cubic meters of stone walls, which Miller said can filter 336, 719 cubic meters of rainwater into groundwater systems.

This is a pilot project, Miller told Atención. El Maíz más Pequeño will apply for more local, state, federal, and private-sector resources to support the project so that it can continue throughout the Támbula-Picachos Basin, which suffers similar problems. After the upcoming rainy season, Miller said, they will measure the water levels in Doña Juana’s community well to see if the project has succeeded.

To contact Miller, email or go on Facebook to elmaízmáspequeño.


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