11 August 2007

Lake Chapala improves


According to a story in today's Publico (Milenio in Guadalajara), Lake Chapala's water level jumped by 30 centimeters during the first 10 days of August - the best rate since 1992. With at least six weeks left until the end of the rainy season, the water level stands at 58 percent capacity, just shy of the high point of 59 percent reached last fall. The upstream dams are also hoarding more water than usual.

Since Lake Chapala supplies some 70 percent of Guadalajara's water needs, the news sounds good. Unfortunately, Jalisco's dam-building brigade - previously led by both former PAN governor Francisco "Paco" Ramirez Acuna and state water commissioner Enrique Dau, the former PRI mayor of Guadalajara that left office in disgrace after the 22 de abril de 1992 explosion - are still championing the Arcediano Dam on the Santiago River near Guadalajara as the solution to the city's pending water problems.

Cleaning up Lake Chapala, which is fed by the toxic Rio Lerma, instead of trapping and distributing highly-contaminated water from behind the proposed Arcediano Dam might be more logical - but logic has never driven this agenda. As an example, the Arcediano Dam is being built near the convergence of the Rio Santiago and Rio Verde. It will be much lower than Guadalajara, meaning any power generated will go toward pumping the water out of the Huentitan Canyon and presumably cleaning it too.

Additionally, the original plans called for a second dam to also be built in the Los Altos region that would supply Leon, Guanajuato, a thirsty industrial city near former president Vicente Fox's San Cristobal Ranch. The original location would have flooded out San Gaspar de los Reyes. The plans were changed in 2005, though, after locals and migrants from the town living in the San Francisco Bay area raised a fuss.

Besides cleaning up the lake and ensuring a stable supply of water in a full Lake Chapala - instead of say, depleting the lake by allowing farmers in Guanajuato to irresponsibly draw so much from the Rio Lerma in order to grow strawberries for export - SIAPA, the Guadalajara area waterworks, could try fixing its leaky pipes, although with so many customers refusing to pay their water bills - customers can't be cut off - the utility is often lacking resources to repair all it's infrastructure.

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