Monday, June 24, 2024

Water commission, unable to monitor quality, seeks 10 billion pesos in funding

A lack of resources, growing insecurity and the difficulty of accessing some parts of the country are preventing the National Water Commission (Conagua) from carrying out the measurements required to determine the quality of Mexico’s water and the quantity available.

In a December 2019 document submitted to the Secretariat of Finance, Conagua outlined the problems it faces and requested just over 10.3 billion pesos in financing (US $548.6 million) to expand and upgrade the National Water Measurement Network.

Obtained by the newspaper El Universal, the document reveals that Conagua is only completing a small fraction of the water supply and quality control measurements that it should be carrying out.

The water commission is conducting just 6.63% of the minimum water supply measurements considered essential for the country, and just 0.75% of the quality control measurements that it should at surface water sites such as rivers and dams.

Conagua said that it doesn’t have sufficient resources, personnel, infrastructure and equipment to carry out all the measurements.

It also said that growing insecurity has prevented its personnel from accessing some of the sites where water monitoring should be taking place. The commission cited the presence of armed criminal groups in some regions, highway robbery and drug trafficking as among the reasons why its personnel haven’t been able to reach some sites.

In addition, Conagua said that road closures, landslides and protests against public infrastructure projects have made it difficult to access some parts of the country where water measurements should be taken on a regular basis.

The Conagua document said that systems to measure water volumes are only installed at 72 of Mexico’s 222 most important dams. Rain gauges are installed at almost all of the dams but are not capable of collecting information about evaporation, humidity and soil temperature, the commission said.

Conagua also said that its groundwater measurement system is not up to the standard it requires, meaning that it doesn’t have access to real time information about the quantity of water in the 653 aquifers that make up Mexico’s water table.

The resounding failure to meet quality control targets means the commission is not testing water at sites where problems have already been identified.

The water quality at 29.2% of 4,142 sites assessed by Conagua has been classified as “red” on a traffic-light scale, while an additional 29.1% of sites have a “yellow” rating.

Low oxygen levels and high levels of bacteria such as E. coli as well as fecal coliforms and heavy metals are among the reasons why water quality is rated as “red” or “yellow” rather than “green.”

Although the water at more than 2,400 water surface sites isn’t up to the standard it should be, Conagua is not testing the quality of the water at more than 99% of them at least twice a year as recommended.

As a result, the commission has no way of guaranteeing the quality of the water on which a significant proportion of the national population depends. The lack of quality control is of particular concern to residents of central Mexico – especially the Valley of México area – where surface water contamination is more prevalent than in other parts of the country.

The quality of groundwater is also a concern: the water at almost 60% of 1,240 sites assessed by Conagua has been classified as “red” or “yellow.”

The poor quality of much of the water supplied to homes exposes people to a range of health risks including gastrointestinal diseases, skin issues and even cancer. In order to mitigate those risks, the taking of frequent and reliable water measurements is considered an important first step.

Consequently, Conagua is seeking 10.3 billion pesos (US $550 million) to purchase state-of-the-art measuring equipment and to cover the costs of installing, maintaining and operating it across the country.

In its submission to the Finance Secretariat, the commission also proposed the construction of a command-and-control center where it can monitor Mexico’s water resources, analyze data and carry out modeling exercises, among other tasks.

New equipment and a control center would provide Conagua with timely access to information about Mexico’s water resources, which, in turn, would allow it to provide prompt alerts to the public to risks such as flooding and respond to problems, the document said.

Above all, Conagua added, the proposed investment in the National Water Measurement Network would enable it to monitor contamination in Mexico’s water bodies, determine actions to reduce the transmission of water-borne diseases, collect information about industrial pollution discharges with a view to sanctioning those responsible and decide ways in which damage to water resources can be remedied.

Source: El Universal (sp) 

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