Connecting The Dots

For All Who Attended Dr. Mariana Cárdenas’ Keynote On March 20th

Mariana Cárdenas -  Photo credits: James Quinn

Mariana Cárdenas - Photo credits: James Quinn

First of all, thank you for attending this important keynote address and for supporting Caminos de Agua, we can’t do it without you.

With so much important information being sent your way Wednesday night, due to our running over and not being able to pull it all together, we’d like to  “connect the dots,” and provide you with this summary:

Highlights of what Mariana said  -

  • Throughout  Mexico, including our region, groundwater is being unsustainably over-extracted, mostly to support agriculture;

  • Because of this, our water table is dropping every year, and wells are being  drilled deeper and deeper;

  • As a result, we’re tapping into very old, ‘fossil,’ water, which contains the naturally-occurring contaminants of arsenic and fluoride, which often exceed World Health Organization recommendations;

  • Ingesting water with unhealthy levels of arsenic and fluoride intermittently or for a short period of time is relatively benign;

  • But drinking or cooking with that same water over extended periods of time is associated with significant health threats;

  • Fluoride “loves” calcium so it’s attracted to human bone and teeth. Ochre-colored teeth are the first visible sign of fluorosis. As time goes by, fluoride will build up in bones making them brittle (skeletal fluorosis);

  • Arsenic is strongly linked with skin lesions and cancers of the skin and bladder. It is also associated with cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and other cancers;

  • Both arsenic and fluoride are also associated with cognitive development issues, low IQ, and Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) – Dr. Cárdenas’ main area of study;

  • In Mexico, deaths from CKD have increased more than 240% over the last 20 years, and CKD is now the leading cause of premature death in in Guanajuato., Incidents of renal repair therapy (i.e. dialysis and kidney transplants) in Guanajuato are higher in municipalities with known high concentrations of arsenic and/or fluoride in the groundwater;

  • Contaminated drinking water is one of the likely environmental risk factors leading to the prevalence of these chronic diseases.

What does this mean?

  • Levels of arsenic and fluoride in our drinking water are almost certain to increase as water usage continues to increase;

  • Children, pregnant women, children, and the elderly are the greatest risk;

  • Those who are more affluent can afford solutions that minimize their risk;

  • The majority of the population, especially those with limited resources, will be at increasing risk for fluorosis, painful skeletal conditions, broken bones, nervous system conditions, cognitive development issues, cancers, and chronic kidney disease.

What is Caminos de Agua Doing?

  • We are testing water continuously throughout the region, including in urban SMA, and developing databases and maps that track contamination over time;

  • We work in partnership with local communities to identify risks, provide comprehensive educational and technical trainings, and implement solutions like community-led installations of rainwater harvesting systems;

  • We produce and distribute our certified ceramic water filters throughout the country. Rainwater is naturally free of arsenic and fluoride and, when paired with our filters for eliminating water-borne pathogens, is an inexpensive source of safe, healthy drinking water;

  • We conduct original R&D to create customized solutions that work, are scientifically proven, and affordable. Our major focus has been the development of a unique arsenic and fluoride treatment system, which is  currently being piloted at the community-scale;

  • We also work at the root causes of our water crisis by partnering with other organizations to influence public water policy at local, state, and federal levels. We recently signed an agreement, backed by the State Government, with the current SMA administration to create a long-term plan for the future of water in San Miguel;

  • Over the last several years, we have been expanding our scope, the communities we work in, and the size of our staff. However, the problems are only getting worse, and the need for our involvement is increasing;

  • 100% of our ability to do more work is directly connected to how much money we can raise;

  • Our team is incredibly talented and dedicated. We are focused and lean with an incredibly low percentage of our budget going to administration or overhead.

  • We are in need of more technical staff, more community organizers, more funds for R&D, new or used vehicles to do our work in the field, and advanced testing equipment.

What can you do?

  • If you have skills we are interested in using them;

  • If you have friends we’d love you to host a meet & greet to help spread the word;

  • If you have questions about how the water situation affects you , one of our Water Ambassadors can visit you at home;

  • But more than anything else, we need your financial support, no amount is too small.

Please consider making a donation today by clicking here.


Chantal Kronenburg