The Christian Science Monitor : 2019-02-11

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right is linked to a responsibility,” he says. “It is impossible to keep giving away money, because sooner or later we are going to pay the consequences.” Like El Paso, Juárez has seen near-constant growth. JMAS water connections have increased from about 235,000 to 465,000 in 20 years, Mr. Uranga says. But while El Paso’s groundwater extractions have steadily declined since 1990, they have continued to increase south of the border. Juárez isn’t standing still, but its efforts to ease pressure on the Hueco are progressing slowly, hobbled by financial, political, and cultural challenges. As Juárez has had to supply water for more people, it has given much of it away free of charge. Of all the water JMAS produces, 40 percent is supplied at no cost. Some residents get it free of charge, as do public schools, parks, hospitals, and government buildings. At the same time, federal budget crunches have limited government investment. In the short term this has affected the utility’s ability to maintain existing water infrastructure, and in the long term it has affected the ability to build new infrastructure, according to René Franco, an independent water consultant in Juárez. “The fees charged by both utilities are drastically different, [but] the cost of infrastructure is not that much different,” he writes in an email. “JMAS must increase their users’ fees to get them a little bit closer to the real cost” of water. What’s more, he adds, “the federal and state governments need to make substantial investments in water infrastructure.” Puerto de Anapra residents in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, fill jugs with free drinking water supplied by the local utility. ON TAP: PHOTOS BY HENRY GASS/THE CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR few months a year, but for Juárez, easing that little bit of pressure on the Hueco could be invaluable in the long term. “If it’s only for one month it’d be worth it, eventually,” says Dr. Franco, sitting in his Juárez office in early December. “If we get water from the Rio Grande very soon then we’ll be all right.” The utility doesn’t have the funding for it at the moment, however, and the conundrum raises the question that El Paso faced in the late 1980s: With limited funds, should the problem we need to work hard on.” Family values It’s common for El Paso and Juárez residents to have family across the border. And like many families, the water utilities in the two cities don’t want to impose on each other. “What we don’t do is tell them anything about what they should do in pumping their wells,” says Trejo. “The relationship is knowing how we affect each other and responding to that.” Trejo has family in both cities. So does Alfredo Granados-Olivas, a professor at the Universidad Autónoma de Ciudad Juárez. He says the cooperation between the two cities has flourished because it has mostly limited itself to sharing data and information. He points out that while conflicts over water have been brewing around the world, the Paso del Norte region has stayed friendly for decades. “How does it work? Respecting the system, respecting each other, and sharing information,” says Dr. Granados- Olivas. “We won’t survive without El Paso, and El Paso won’t survive without us.” “We’re not separate families,” he adds. ‘We’re not separate families.’ – Alfredo Granados-Olivas, Universidad Autónoma de Ciudad Juárez Education or technology? priority be educating people to use less water or building more infrastructure to conserve and diversify water sources? Franco believes that Juárez has reached its limit in terms of public education, at least for now. “People are not wasting water as they used to,” he says. Indeed, per capita consumption has declined in Juárez to less than 80 gallons per day, a fraction of the usage of those in El Paso. With double the population of its American neighbor, however, Juárez is consuming just as much water. And given how much water is being supplied free of charge, people like Uranga think more education is needed. “We need to appreciate the real value of the water,” says Uranga. “That’s a cultural Infrastructure in Juárez is certainly in better shape than it was when was Uranga joined JMAS in 1995. After touring water treatment plants in El Paso, officials built two in Juárez. The city has a “purple line” system that pipes treated wastewater for agriculture and watering green spaces. In 2010 the utility contracted with Grupo Carso, a company owned by billionaire Carlos Slim, to build a pipeline that imports brackish groundwater from another aquifer west of the city. Officials in Juárez want to further ease pressure on the Hueco by building a plant to treat water from the Rio Grande. El Paso has a similar one right on the border. Flows in the river are so low now it’s only used a This story was produced with support from an Energy Foundation grant to cover the environment. r Questions? Comments? Email the science team at [email protected] THE CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR WEEKLY FEBRUARY 11, 2019 17 | PRINTED AND DISTRIBUTED BY PRESSREADER +1 604 278 4604 ORIGINAL COPY . ORIGINAL COPY . ORIGINAL COPY . ORIGINAL COPY . ORIGINAL COPY . ORIGINAL COPY COPYRIGHT AND PROTECTED BY APPLICABLE LAW

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