Jan 152011

Two major new aqueducts will help to ensure reliable water supplies for Guadalajara and León, two rapidly growing cities in the Lerma-Chapala basin.

SIAPA (Sistema Intermunicipal de Agua Potable y Alcantarillado) is the acronym for the water supply system for the city of Guadalajara, Mexico’s second largest metropolitan area (population: 4.4 million). About 60% of Guadalajara’s potable water comes from Lake Chapala, the country’s largest natural lake, via an aqueduct. According to SIAPA Director José Luis Hernández Amaya, this existing aqueduct, built more than 20 years ago, is now inadequate. SIAPA now has construction permits in place to build a second aqueduct supplying water to the city from the lake. The plans for the second aqueduct have been approved by both state and federal regulatory bodies (the Comisión Estatal del Agua and the Comisión Nacional del Agua (Conagua) respectively).

All parties agree that boosting the amount of available water is essential for a city growing as rapidly as Guadalajara. The new aqueduct, likely to cost 2,000 million pesos, will enable the city to undertake maintenance as needed on the pumping stations and channels of both systems. Undertaking maintenance on the existing system without opening a parallel channel would involve cutting off the water supply for up to 60% of Guadalajara’s population for several days.

A new aqueduct is also planned for the city of León. According to recent press reports, the El Zapotillo dam on the Río Verde is about 21% complete. The resulting reservoir will guarantee adequate water supply for León (population: 1.6 million), and reduce its dependence on groundwater abstraction. Tenders are now being accepted for the construction of a 139-km-long aqueduct from El Zapotillo to join León’s potable water system, together with two pumping stations and a water purification plant.

The new reservoir and aqueduct should ensure that León’s water demands are met for between 25 and 30 years. In addition to León, several other municipalities will also benefit from an improved water supply, including Jalostotitlán, San Miguel el Alto, Encarnación de Díaz, San Juan de los Lagos and Lagos de Moreno.

Lake Chapala in 2002

Lake Chapala in 2002, more like a desert than a lake. The lake has since recovered.

Neither plan is without its critics. Activists at Lake Chapala are concerned that supplying more water from the lake to Guadalajara will return the lake to the precarious state it was in during the 1990s. Opponents to El Zapatillo claim that the main demand for water in León is from the new industrial estates and leather tanning plants, and that supplying them with more water will only lead to further serious contamination and even more wastage of the valuable resource.

Rivers, reservoirs and water-related issues are discussed in chapters 6 and 7 of Geo-Mexico: the geography and dynamics of modern Mexico. Ask your library to buy a copy of this handy reference guide to all aspects of Mexico’s geography today! Better yet, order your own copy…


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