The Valle de Bravo dam The Valle de Bravo dam is one of the three main dams in the system.

Cutzamala water system at lowest level in 25 years and will likely go lower

Water shortages occurring in some parts of Mexico City and México state

The main dams that feed the water system that supplies Mexico City and México state are at their lowest level in 25 years, according to the National Water Commission (Conagua).

And the situation will only become more critical until the commencement of the rainy season in late spring.

The three main dams that supply the Cutzamala system – Villa Victoria and Valle de Bravo in México state and El Bosque in Michoacán – are currently holding 399 million cubic meters of water, a figure that accounts for 47.9% of their collective capacity.

Víctor Bourguett Ortiz, Conagua’s top official in the Valley of México, told the newspaper Milenio that the combined storage level in the three dams is typically almost 70% at this time of year. He predicted that water levels will decline to 40% of capacity by the end of May or the beginning of June.

“[The level now] is the lowest level in the last 25 years for this same date. It’s not the lowest level in history … but from now until it rains again it will certainly go down even more,” Bourguett said.

Capacity of the dams
Capacity of the dams is shown in gray; blue indicates water levels as of March 12. milenio

“… We’re 22 points below average storage for the same date. … Last year was very bad for rain,” Bourguett said.

He estimated there will be 320 million cubic meters of water in the three dams at the end of May or start of June – when the annual rainy season will likely begin – and that “could be the lowest level in history.”

Bourguett said that Conagua and authorities in the Valley of México will decide next week on a strategy to reduce supply to conserve water while minimizing the impact on people who rely on the Cutzamala system, which receives water from eight dams in total. Data shows that household water usage has increased 30% since the start of the coronavirus pandemic a year ago as people spend more time in their homes.

Bourguett said that some Mexico City and México state residents are already experiencing water shortages. If Conagua significantly reduces supply to the water departments responsible for supplying those entities, the problems will be exacerbated and water tankers won’t be able to keep up with demand.

Citing both the scarcity of water and the high costs associated with getting it to people’s homes in the high altitude capital and surrounding area, the official called on citizens to use the resource more efficiently.

“We don’t recognize the value of the resource except when we lack it – then we realize how valuable it is. It’s worrying, … we call on people to look after water, take measures [to limit use],” Bourguett said.

Locations of Cutzamala's chief dams.
Locations of Cutzamala’s chief dams. milenio

Water supply for household use, agriculture and industry among other purposes is also a concern in many other parts of Mexico as more than 80% of the nation’s territory is currently in drought.

Conagua official Luis Antonio Aguilar Meza said in late February that 83 of Mexico’s 210 most important dams were less than 50% full and that only three were at 100% capacity.

Located about 60 kilometers northwest of México state capital Toluca, the Villa Victoria dam is currently at 39.1% of capacity, making it the least full of the three main Cutzamala system suppliers.

The water levels in the El Bosque dam, located in eastern Michoacán near the border with México state, and the Valle de Bravo dam, situated in the México state municipality of the same name, are 45.1% and 59.7%, respectively.

Source: Milenio (sp) 

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