A Coalition for Clean Water

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August, 2019

August, 2019

Photo by James Quinn

Photo by James Quinn

Over the past year, there has been a lot of discussion and concern about the future of water in San Miguel de Allende.

Are there contaminants in the current water supply in San Miguel? What will happen to the quantity and quality of San Miguel’s water supply as our city continues to grow? What work is being done to make sure a  water plan is being created that provides for the city’s future water needs?

With these and many other concerns in mind, 14 leading San Miguel NGO’s with a stake in the fight for clean water joined together to create Agua Vida in October of 2018.

Hidden Contaminants Are Putting Us All at Risk

 Export-driven agriculture is a huge sector of the economy in the state of Guanajuato. Water-intensive crops are rapidly sucking up our precious water resources and significantly contributing to the rapid decline of our water table (2-4 meters every year). The deeper we go to get to the water, the more we are seeing spikes of naturally occurring arsenic and fluoride in our water supply. There is no question that there are dangerous contaminants in our drinking water when it comes out of the ground, the big question is how bad is it when it enters our homes?  Without immediate action, the health of all the residents of San Miguel de Allende will become increasingly threatened.  

The Downside to Tourism 

 Making changes in the agriculture sector is largely beyond the capacity of municipal government.  However, tourism, urban planning, and rainwater management are just some of the issues that our local government can manage, and there are important changes that can be made to better preserve our depleting water resources. 

 Every year, more and more tourists flock to San Miguel and an increasing number of foreigners are investing in residential property. To accommodate this rising demand, new hotels, restaurants, housing projects, and other developments are popping up at an unsustainable rate.  Without water stability and public awareness, we are looking not only at serious health threats to many residents but harm to businesses, increased urban flooding and falling real estate values as well.             

A Promising Addition to the Municipal Code to Facilitate Future Growth

With this in mind, one of the major efforts of the Agua Vida Coalition is to change the municipal construction code to require rainwater harvesting on all new developments.  Such a change will be the first of its kind in the country and put San Miguel on the map as a model city in water management and innovation. 

Working Together Toward a Common Goal

For the first time in the history of San Miguel, a large group of nonprofits is working in partnership with the municipal government, including the  municipal water authority (SAPASMA), on a plan to identify problems and develop solutions that will ensure water security for all.

Having an open-dialogue has allowed us to  raise specific issues - such as cleaning up the Cachinches and creating a Water Fund whose resources will be designated to help communities most at risk.  Caminos de Agua is proud to be a critical part of this coalition that is making important progress to ensure the future of San Miguel. The threats to our water that we are all facing are not issues that we can combat alone.

Melissa Landman