The construction of an aqueduct in Baja California that seems to favor an American beverages company over local farmers has raised concerns about water availability and its fair distribution.
The third largest beer maker in the United States, Constellation Brands, is currently building a US $1.5-billion plant in Mexicali, capital of the northern state.
Expected to produce 1 billion liters of beverages annually, the plant is estimated to require 15 million cubic meters of water per year, or close to 6% of the state population’s water needs during that period of time.
The Ejido Villahermosa-Mexicali aqueduct will carry water over 47.5 kilometers starting in the Valley of Mexicali, where deep wells take water from aquifers that already show a yearly deficit of 456 million cubic meters, according to official documents published in April 2015.
The aqueduct will have the capacity to transport 20 million cubic meters of water a year, of which 75% will feed directly into Constellation Brands’ Mexicali brewery.
The state is constructing the 442-million-peso (close to $22 million) project, using federal resources.
Community land owners — or ejidatarios — in the Valley of Mexicali were granted ownership of the aquifer, located beneath their land, in 1944, when it was recognized in a bilateral agreement signed by the Mexican and American governments that its use was to be solely for farming purposes.
The National Farmers’ Confederation has estimated that 1,500 families residing in the Valley of Mexicali would see their farming of 5,000 hectares negatively affected by the construction of the aqueduct.
In a report on the project, the state water commission lauded the state government for “boosting job creation in all its municipalities.”
One of those job-creating projects is the Constellation Brands brewery, continued the water authority, adding that “the main requirement for this kind of industry is water availability.”
The report acknowledges that “the agricultural valley is the most reliable source of water in the state.”