San Francisco Chronicle - (Sunday)
Water concerns rise as drought drains reservoirs
MEXICO CITY — Drought conditions now cover 85% of Mexico, and residents of the nation’s central region say lakes and reservoirs are simply drying up, including the country’s secondlargest body of fresh water.
The mayor of Mexico City said the drought was the worst in 30 years, and the problem can be seen at the reservoirs that store water from other states to supply the capital.
Some of them, like the Villa Victoria reservoir west of the capital, are at onethird of their normal capacity, with a month and a half to go before any significant rain is expected.
Isaias Salgado, 60, was trying to fill his water tank truck at Villa Victoria last week, a task that normally takes him just half an hour. But he estimated it took 3½ hours to pump water into his 10,000liter tanker.
“The reservoir is drying up,” Salgado said. “If they keep pumping water out, by May it will be completely dry, and the fish will die.”
The capital’s 9 million inhabitants rely on reservoirs like Villa Victoria and two others — which together are at about 44% capacity — for a quarter of their water; most of the rest comes from wells within city limits. But the city’s own water table is dropping and leaky pipes waste much of what is brought into the city.
Rogelio Angeles Hernandez, 61, has been fishing the waters of Villa Victoria for the last 30 years. He isn’t so much worried about his own catch; in dry seasons of the past, residents were able to cart fish off in wheelbarrows as water levels receded.
But tourism at reservoirs, like Valle de Bravo further to the west, has been hit by falling water levels.
In the end, it is the capital that is really going to suffer.
“Fishing is the same, but the real impact will be on the people in Mexico City, who are going to get less water,” Angeles Hernandez said.
Farther to the west, in Michoacan state, the country is at risk of losing its secondlargest lake, Lake Cuitzeo. About 75% of the lake bed is now dry, said Alberto GomezTagle, a biologist and researcher who chairs the Natural Resources Institute of the University of Michoacan.
GomezTagle said that deforestation, roads built across the shallow lake and diversion of water for human use have played a role, but three extremely dry years have left the lake a dusty plain.
“2019, 2020 and so far 2021 have been drier than average, and that has had a cumulative effect on the lake,” he said.