By Jesús Gutiérrez
The issue of water scarcity and contamination in our aquifer is uniting the community in San Miguel de Allende.
When the 14 NGOs that collectively form the Agua Vida coalition first joined forces, the goal was to increase awareness of the risks concerning our finite water source in both urban and rural areas of the Alto Rio Laja watershed. This coalition also recognized the need to reinforce a sense of community around water issues, where people work together to find solutions and help one another.
As a coalition, Agua Vida had the goal of convincing local authorities to make rainwater harvesting mandatory for all new developments and that become part of the municipal construction code. That is still in process, but we are hopeful it will happen.
The NGOs then discovered other problems that needed resolution, such as the outdated standards being used in measuring levels of arsenic as well as inaccurate results regarding arsenic and fluoride levels. The coalition also identified serious erosion and deforestation in the Tambula Picachos basin, which causes massive flooding in San Miguel’s Centro and low-lying neighborhoods. Agua Vida is in the process of convincing local authorities to restore this rain catchment area by maintaining and increasing the few designated nature reserves.
Next month the Agua Vida Coalition will hold a week of activities during World Water Week.
Community involvement is needed to help find solutions for the problems concerning our essential and precious water.
There is also an urgent need to increase awareness of the health risks with our water, and protect the health of the most vulnerable in the rural communities that have little or no access to safe drinking water. Especially at risk are pregnant women, babies, and small children–-many of whom are already being impacted by the high levels of arsenic and fluoride in their water. There are significant numbers of children in this region affected by dental fluorosis, seen by a browning of their teeth. Now new contaminants and risks such as nitrates are being identified through Caminos de Agua’s water quality monitoring program.
Rainwater is naturally free of these hard to remove minerals and metals, and rainwater harvesting projects have already begun in this region with the work of several organizations. This addresses the issues of both water contamination and water scarcity.
We need to take actions that will transform our current reality and help us find a way of living that is more harmonious with our environment, especially as it relates to everyone’s right to clean and safe water.