The operation of the brewery under construction by the United States company Constellation Brands in Mexicali, Baja California, does not pose a threat to the water supply, the federal government says in an information leaflet being distributed in the lead-up to this weekend’s referendum on the controversial beverage plant.
Emblazoned with the logos of the ministries of the Interior and the Environment as well as the National Water Commission, the brochure acknowledges that there is community concern that the brewery will use excessive amounts of water and thus create a shortage in Mexicali and surrounding areas.
However, the government points out that there is annual water availability of 2.7 billion cubic meters in the Valley of Mexicali and that the state government has only authorized the use of 5.8 million cubic meters per year by the brewery.
The amount represents “just 0.2% of the total volume [of available water] in the region,” the leaflet says, adding that the brewery will not be permitted to increase the quantity of water it uses.
“The operation of the plant doesn’t represent a present or future risk to the supply or availability of water for the countryside and homes in the Valley of Mexicali, or to the human right to water.”
The government also offers a guarantee that the brewery – being built on 400 hectares of land – will not use more water than a farm of the same size. In addition, Constellation Brands will pay 68 centavos for each liter of water it uses whereas farmers pay only 14 centavos, the brochure says.
If water supply is low, the Constellation brewery, other factories and farmers will all have to reduce their use of the resource to ensure availability for human consumption, the government says.
The leaflet notes that Constellation has obtained all the environmental and other permits it requires to operate but stresses that “the people” will have the final word on whether the US $1.5-billion brewery is allowed to open. “This March 21 and 22, you decide!” it says.
Opponents of the brewery, such as the Mexicali Committee for the Defense of Water, said that the brochure is biased and accused the government of showing favoritism to Constellation Brands.
“It betrays the principles of Juárez,” said Armando Salinas, leader of the committee and another group opposed to the brewery project, referring to 19th-century president Benito Juárez.
He added that if the government has already made up its mind to allow the brewery to open, the consultation should be cancelled to save money. “It would be an unnecessary expense,” Salinas said.
President López Obrador announced at the start of the month that a vote to decide the fate of the brewery would be held in Mexicali and said last week it would take place March 21 and 22.
“We want the citizens to be those who decide, we want the public to decide,” he said last Monday, explaining that the vote is not called a consultation but rather a “participatory exercise.”
On March 3, López Obrador rejected any suggestion that holding a referendum on the brewery set a bad precedent.
“People say: ‘it will set a bad precedent if there’s a consultation, because it will impact investment.’ No, the bad precedent was already set when, without taking people into account, they gave out the permits,” he said.
Citizens will be able to cast their vote this Saturday and Sunday at 17 locations in Mexicali and a further 10 in agricultural areas.
Constellation, the largest importer of beer to the United States, has rejected the public consultation and said that it will consider other locations for a new brewery if Mexico becomes too problematic.
If the company decides to continue construction of the brewery in Mexicali – and its operation is given a green light at the government’s consultation – it is expected to open at the end of 2021.
Source: La Jornada (sp)