A troubled water project in Durango and Coahuila is likely to face fresh hurdles due to old and leaky lines.
The Clean Water for the Laguna project seeks to supply drinking water from the Nazas River and the Lázaro Cárdenas and Francisco Zarco dams to 1.6 million people in the Durango municipalities of Gómez Palacio, Lerdo, Mapimí and Tlahualio, and the Coahuila municipalities of Francisco I Madero, Matamoros, San Pedro, Torreón and Viesca. The National Water Commission (Conagua) predicts the investment will cost over 10 billion pesos (about US $503 million.)
It could be completed by the end of 2023, according to projections, and involves building a pumping station, a water treatment plant, 35 kilometers of gravity-fed lines and 11 kilometers of pressure lines, among other infrastructure.
But the project was stalled when a district judge gave temporary approval to its suspension on May 27 on environmental grounds, eliciting an attack on the “rotten judiciary” by President López Obrador. He suggested it should be considered by the Supreme Court due to the health implications of failing to provide clean water to communities.
However, regardless of the status of the project there are inadequate water lines, some of which are 80 years old.
Of the 2,000 kilometers of pipelines that cross Torreón, 450 kilometers need to be modernized, meaning an expense of 250 to 300 million pesos (about US $12.3-$14.7 million), according to the newspaper Milenio. The lines in the western section are more than 80 years old, and more than 60 years old in the central section. Taken together, those lines are responsible for losing nearly half of all the water that is being pumped.
Luis Gamiz Ortega, manager of the water authority in Francisco I. Madero, reported that 70% of the lines have been identified as needing replacement.
Mayor Jonathan Ávalos Rodríguez said the upgrades pose an extensive challenge. “The lines are very old, more than 50 years old. Many are affected by asbestos, which is an issue that requires a lot of spending on infrastructure … we are talking about changing the lines and repaving the area,” he said.
Raymundo Rodríguez de la Torre of the Torreón water authority warned that if the Clean Water project began immediately, almost half of the water would be wasted. “We have to put our house in order before we receive the water,” he added.
The situation is mirrored in Durango. In Gómez Palacio the water lines are more than 20 years old and are responsible for the loss of 38% of the water in the municipality. The network’s replacement is planned through an investment of 1.4 billion pesos (about $68.7 million). In Lerdo, the head of the water authority said that 236 kilometers of roughly 50-year-old network should be replaced to avoid leaks of up to 40% of the water being pumped through the system. That, he said, represents a loss of 220 liters per second.
The same goes for the network in Matamoros, Tamaulipas: local deputy and former mayor Raúl Onofre said the municipality wasn’t ready for the Laguna water project as some of the area’s pipes date back more than 50 years, and would have to be completely replaced.
With reports from Milenio