San Diego Readers

Ensenada confronts water shortage

Pipeline from Colorado River being considered

The low water levels at Emilio López Zamora Dam, seen earlier this year, contributed to a water crisis in Ensenada. 

The low water levels at Emilio López Zamora Dam, seen earlier this year, contributed to a water crisis in Ensenada. — David Maung

— On the days her taps run dry, Minerva Altamirano makes do with a collection of buckets and pots filled with water. Others on her quiet block of well-tended row houses have installed tinacos, rooftop water tanks, or dip into 50-gallon bins, known as tambos.

Here in the sprawling hillside development of Villas del Prado and across Ensenada, residents have been learning to live with rationed water, as the port city of 400,000 residents confronts an unprecedented shortage.

Since January, most residents count on receiving water a fraction of the time; service to Altamirano’s area is scheduled for Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. “Sometimes the water is clean, and sometimes it’s dirty,” said Altamirano, 63.

Ensenada resident Minerva Altamirano stores water in her back patio for the days when her taps are dry.— David Maung

The only municipality in Baja California that is not supplied by the Colorado River, Ensenada depends largely on aquifers for its supply, with a small portion provided by rainwater held behind the Emilio López Zamora Dam. But as a lack of rainfall and high temperatures emptied the reservoir and lowered the aquifers to dangerously low levels, authorities have been forced to implement a rationing plan.

The shortage has prompted an intensive search for new sources that run the gamut from treated waste water to desalinated ocean water to importing water from the Colorado River. The state’s immediate solution is adding new wells.

“Come summer, if we remain the same, this is going to be a very severe crisis,” said Arturo Alvarado González, head of the state’s water agency in Ensenada, known as Cespe. An aging infrastructure makes the problem worse, with leaks and broken pipes that need frequent repair, he said. “It is very uncomfortable, and we understand that citizens are upset. ... My answer is that we are working to resolve this.”

Arturo Alvarado González, head of the Cespe, Baja California's water agency in Ensenada, holds up a timer being distributed to encourage water users to limit their time in the shower.— David Maung

According to the agency, the rationing has lowered Ensenada’s per capita water consumption from 66 gallons a day to 43.

The shortages are not just affecting city residents, but raising alarm in adjacent agricultural areas such as the Valle de Guadalupe, a key state tourist attraction that produces 90 percent of Mexico’s wines. The valley has for years shared its underground water supply with Ensenada’s domestic users — and growers are increasingly worried about their diminishing supply being siphoned off for urban uses.

Yet tourists visiting the city might not even be aware of there is a problem, as any hotels and restaurants affected by rationing use their own water reserves for their guests, said Jean-Loup Bitterlin, owner of El Rey Sol Restaurant and the adjoining Posada Inn. “Everybody has a pila or water storage space,” Bitterlin said.

Those most affected are residents, such as Altamirano and her neighbor Daniel Ibarra Tribolet, 39, who was busy filling all available receptacles with water Wednesday — from kitchen pots to the washing machine.

“Supposedly we get water Mondays and Wednesdays, but sometimes it’s not there Monday, and there it is on Tuesday,” he said. “Sometimes we don’t even have enough to bathe.”

Baja California is an arid region, much like San Diego County, with Ensenada long the most hard-pressed for water among the state’s five municipalities. Tijuana, Mexicali, Tecate and Rosarito Beach all are supplied by the Colorado River. Ensenada has rights to a small portion of the state’s allocation, but there is no pipeline to carry the water.

“We have a problem that we live in a desert and that has not been assumed as such,” said Joaquín Bohigas, an astronomer and member of Red Calidad de Vida, a network of organization for civic groups in Ensenada. “I think the same thing happens a bit in California, but here it’s more dramatic because it’s a dryer zone.”

Bohigas and other critics lay much of the blame for Ensenada’s current shortage on federal and state governments, saying they failed to prevent a crisis long in the making.


Ensenada’s water shortage has been known for years, as aquifer levels have suffered from saline intrusion and their levels have dropped. Proposed solutions have stagnated for a range of reasons — from a lack of funds to objections raised by environmental groups. Some critics say government authorities are largely responsible for not making Ensenada’s water issues a greater priority.

“There has been a lack of planning on the part of the state and federal governments to foresee the needs of the population,” said Wenceslao Martínez, president of the umbrella group known as the Business Coordinating Council. “There are many businesses that would like to locate in Ensenada, but we don’t have the ability to provide water,” said Martínez, who favors construction of a pipeline from Tecate to deliver Colorado River water to Ensenada.

While everyone agrees that Ensenada needs to increase its supply of drinking water, there is little leadership toward reaching a solution, said Rogelio Vázquez, a geophysicist who studies water at CICESE, a government-funded scientific research institution in Ensenada. He recommends desalination plants as the most viable future water source.

With changes in administrations both at the state and federal levels, many in authority are new to their jobs.

“I can talk about November on out,” said Enrique Ruelas, head of the State Water Commission, Baja California’s overall planning agency for water resources. Baja California’s governor, Francisco Vega de Lamadrid “is very much aware of the situation,” Ruelas said. “He has given instructions that there is no priority greater than the water supply.”

The Cespe serves some 110,000 municipal customers in the city of Ensenada, and about 90 percent of them are affected by the rationing measures, said Alvarado, the agency’s director. In its rationing plan, Cespe divided the city into five zones with different water delivery schedules — some are told to expect water four days a week, others three days, one zone every day for 12 hours. But the schedule can vary “according to climate, consumption or repairs to the systems,” reads a flyer.

The addition of four new wells is expected to end the need for rationing by late May, said Alvarado. An emergency declaration by the governor last month for Ensenada made available 27 million pesos in state funds — about $2 million — to open the wells.

“The desalination plant is insufficient; by the time it’s completed, we’ll need another desalination plant,” said Ensenada geophysicist Rogelio Vazquez. — David Maung

In August, construction is scheduled to begin on a desalination plant designed to convert seawater to drinking water at a rate of 5.7 million gallons a day. Built at a cost of $46 million and scheduled for completion in 2015, it would be first large-scale plant in the Baja California.

“The desalination plant is insufficient; by the time it’s completed, we’ll need another desalination plant,” said CICESE’s Vazquez.

Ensenada’s crisis is not simply one of quantity, but of quality, Vázquez said. His studies have show that salinity levels in the municipal water supply in the southern part of the city are often more than twice the federally recommended levels.


Mexico Leap Frogs to #1 Place to Invest in the World








Mexico is # 14 on the GDP rankings of world economies as posted by the United Nations, IMF, CIA Factbook and the World Bank and moving up fast.  Expects to be # 5 by 2030


by San Diego Source with additional edits by Johnny Punish


Everyone around the world is looking and asking “Where do we invest?” and “Where the next big thing?”.    Well, it’s Mexico!  Now, although it’s a long way from becoming the next China, the growth of the Mexico economy and the manufacturing activity in the region have global companies and investors taking a very close and serious look at the USA’s largest neighbor.  Check it out….

Four years ago, according to a report from T. Rowe Price, Mexico was dealing with a series of troubling conditions: a drug war, widespread poverty and political corruption that led the U.S. government to suggest the country was at risk of becoming a “failed economy.” However, things have changed significantly.

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“Mexico’s recent success started with a flurry of free-trade deals it signed,” the report cites. “Partly as a result of these deals, an increasing number of multinationals have set up shop in the country to capitalize on its inexpensive labor and proximity to the United States.”

Although it took some time, it appears Mexico has been the biggest winner from the North American Free Trade Agreement over Canada and the United States, and over the years expanded to include other countries. Mexico now has 12 free-trade agreements involving 44 countries.

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The manufacturing expansion in Mexico has benefited from conditions in China, where the labor cost equation is moving in Mexico’s favor.

“In 2000, Mexican factory workers earned more than four times as much as Chinese workers. Due in large part to China’s double-digit wage increases in recent years, by 2010, Mexican workers earned only 1.5 times as much,” said Michelle Gibley, director of international research at the Schwab Center for Financial Research.

And the Boston Consulting Group estimates by 2015 the fully loaded cost of hiring Chinese workers may be 25 percent more than hiring Mexico workers.

Another factor favoring Mexico is “near-shoring,” manufacturing products to be exported to regional neighbors, in particular, the United States.

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“Near-shoring has helped Mexico’s manufacturing sector, helping to grow the country’s market share in goods that are expensive to ship because of their bulk or weight, such as televisions, major household appliances and automobiles. Furthermore, we expect U.S. demand for cars to remain strong,” said Schwab’s Gibley.

One product, medical devices, has become a big part of the manufacturing activity in Tijuana. Ossur, a global leader in orthopedic products based in Iceland, established a manufacturing facility in Tijuana and has announced plans to significantly expand the operation.

According to the Tijuana Economic Development Corporation, more than 40 medical device companies have operations in the city, hiring more than 31,000 workers, claiming “more manufacturing workers than any other city in North America.”

After years of discussing the geographical links between San Diego and Tijuana, a concerted effort is under way to pool resources to seize the opportunity for international trade.

Plaza Andares, a new city commerce centre in Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico

“San Diego and Tijuana are naturally positioned as a hub for global business, travel and idea sharing,” said Mark Cafferty, CEO and president of the San Diego Economic Development Corporation. “There really is no place like this in the world from a business development perspective, and I think you’re going to see more businesses locate and expand here because of all that’s available to them on both sides of the border.”

To take this to the next step, a partnership between six economic development organizations on both sides of the border is being established.

The Cali Baja Bi-National Mega-Region, also known as CaliBaja, “is designed to step up our collective economic development profile by coordinating our marketing and communications around CaliBaja as a pre-eminent place for high-value business investments. With the recent trend toward near-shoring, this makes Baja a much more valuable player,” said Christina Luhn, executive director of the mega-region initiative.

The opportunities in Mexico have not been ignored by Wall Street. The Mexico Fund, a closed-end mutual fund investing in companies based in the region, has participated in the recent rally. The shares had dropped as low as $11 in February 2009, the depths of the recession. In trading last week the shares had more than tripled to more than $38.

This is not your fathers Mexico….time to take a whole new look at the truly Modern coming global powerhouse that is Mexico.

Feeding The Perception
Tony Brogdon , November 18, 2012


For years now the World Media has been feeding a negative perception about Mexico. The Movies, the TV shows, the National TV news networks and printed media have portrayed Mexico as a war zone and as a country living in poverty. Perception is the truth as we know it. Thus feeding a negative perception of Mexico and Baja, Mexico creates in the minds of the world a reality that is far from the truth. Sensationalizing the negative even though it might only represent a very small percent of the overall creates ratings and drives the content. Thus feeding the perception with the overall reality does also over time make an impact. Slowly more and more positive articles are being written and reported and are having a positive effect. My wife Cathie and I are representatives of the 1 million US citizens who live in Mexico whom share a different reality of what it is like living in Mexico. I have been attempting to feed the true perception of life in Mexico from the perspective of one who visited Mexico for 30 years but discovered after living here full time an entirely different reality portrayed by the World Media.


Google has become the benchmark for researching all subjects via the International Web. If you Google " perception of Baja, Mexico " you will find consistently in the top 5 of my previous articles referring to the Perception of Baja, Mexico presented by the World Media. Many local people have dedicated their maximum efforts to change this perception to reflect the true overall reality.


The Rosario Beach Hotel has been very successful promoting and hosting local events that draw thousands of tourists to help many who used to come but were fearful to come. A significant increase in tourism has been achieved. There has also been an increase in the Baja Real Estate.


Tijuana Innavadora 2012 in October has once again pulled business and political leaders from both sides of the border to promote through the media the growth and technological contribution Tijuana and Baja has provided internationally. With astounding growth in the local and national economy, a growing middle class, improvements in infrastructure such a better roads, a new World Trade Center, numerous new modern upscale shopping centers, ultramodern office buildings, the availability of state of the art technology, a ultramodern Children's Museum, a resurgence of construction in Ocean View condos, an expanded and modernized Border entry into Mexico and most important a major reduction in crime.


Baja is a combination of extreme diversity. In many ways it's like the US 50 years ago., when you got your gas pumped by a uniformed attendant who also checks your oil, your air in your tires, when you drive down the scenic highway smelling locals burning their trash, seeing family members riding in the back of pickups, seeing families camping on the beach, when watching a current movie in an ultra modern theatre with double the leg room at one forth the price and where being friendly and respectful to strangers is common not odd.


The further south you travel, you will not only experience a vast change in scenery as well as a slower pace in lifestyle. If you talk to people who live here, especially for the past 10 to 30 years, you will hear the same story of the reality of what it is like to live in Mexico with a desire to make a positive difference not change it. Their account will be extremely in contrast of what the World Media feeds the public the perception of Baja, Mexico. The long term outlook of quality of life in Mexico is very positive. Value is described the combination of quality at a lower price. If you add less stress to the equation you can expect to live life longer with better quality of life at a lower cost in Baja, Mexico.