SAPA & Ejido Water



Casa de Ejidal, Todos Santos  May 16, 2015


ACTS Vice President Vickie Butler welcomed the almost 100 attendees and explained that the purpose of the Water Forum was to allow the invited panelists an opportunity to share their knowledge and to answer questions from the audience. Vickie also stated that as a non-profit organization, ACTS relies on membership dues to pay taxes, accountant and website-related expenses. She encouraged the audience to formally join ACTS and to pay the 500 peso a year dues. Vickie also stated that the majority of the Community Water Forum expenses had been paid by private donors.

Vickie then introduced Sergio Jauregui, Todos Santos Eco Adventures, who would serve as the translator/moderator for the Water Forum. Sergio explained that each panelist would speak for 10 minutes and that all audience questions would be held until the end because it was likely that many questions already would have been answered. Sergio stated that Tony Palma would serve as the time keeper/”bell ringer” and then introduced the following invited individuals seated at the head table, several of whom would give reports:

Prof. Marco Antonio Nuñez Rosas, La Paz Ayuntamiento

Guilllermo Matsui, Desarrollo Urbano y Ecologia

Lic. Gerardo de Jesús Chiw Unzón, OOMSAPA

Ignacio Iglesias Caro, OOMSAPA
Sergio Perez, Todos Santos SAPA
Prof. Jesus Fruto Contreras, Todos Santos Ejido

Javier Salas, Todos Santos Waste Treatment
Ing. Ricardo Millan, Todos Santos Waste Treatment

Lic. John Moreno, Legal Issues & Privitization
Ing. Carlos Hernandez, Pedregal Desalination Plant

Summary of Panelists’ Reports

Marco Antonia Nunez Rosas, La Paz Public Works, told the audience that he was there to try and answer questions. He stressed that the public has to help solve our various water problems and that the officials would, in turn, help.

Lic. Gerardo de Jesus Chiw Unzon, OOMSAPA, remarked that most of the audience was from a culture that has concern and knowledge of water conservation. In this area, we obtain our water from the underground aquifers that are replenished from Sierra rainwater, but because we live in a desert area in BCS, there is not much precipitation. Todos Santos gets on the average 176 mm of rain per year which is 1/3 the amount of rain received by mainland Mexico, so BCS is considered a very dry area.

There are 2400 water hook-ups in Todos Santos and of these only 400 are metered. The hook- ups without meters are billed at 130 pesos per month and many individuals are wasting water. Data shows that previously the town consumption was 350 liters per person per day, but now it is 800 liters per person per day.

Many water recipients do not pay and this lack of payment has to change because it affects our public services budget. Where is the water going? There are many leaks, and some people are leaving faucets open or have cisterns that overfill and lose water through a lack of conscience or awareness. There are many problems also with the infrastructure and leaking pipes. Some locals don’t pay their water bills, they think it should be free, but we need everyone to pay!

Sergio Perez, Todos Santos SAPA, explained that a current problem with water delivery is that many pipes have been cut due to the current construction pavement project. Another issue is that there are not enough valves to control water delivery. From Las Brisas all the way to Las Playitas the line is only a 4” pipe, where it should be a 10” pipe. The extra pump recently installed for that area now is broken. He then asked how many areas were experiencing problems receiving water. (Note: At least six streets or barrios were mentioned by the audience).

Ing. Ricardo Millan, Todos Santos Waste Treatment, spoke about the Salas Treatment facility that was originally started as a municipal development but is now being operated privately. At capacity, the plant can operate with 15 liters per second, but is now only getting 10; therefore, there is a deficit of 5 liters per second. This deficit is because a very small percentage of homes are connected and so much grey water is lost. There has been no overall planning so people connect a little at a time. The plant uses natural treatment techniques, thus no chemicals other than chlorine are utilized to disinfect during the first phase. Bacteria are used to eat the organics.

The concept is the same as self-cleaning rivers. The plant has 7 tanks. The 1st process is to eliminate nitrogen, 2nd–inject air and organic eating bacteria, 3rd–recovery of bacteria which serve as the main reactive. The water is kept still so the clean rises up as sediment settles to the bottom. Mud is recovered with bacteria and taken back to the beginning. The good water is filtered and chlorine is added to create potable water. All the mud creates tons of bacteria which is injected with air and then dried. The bio-solids can used as agriculture fertilizer, but here it goes to the dump. Sewage goes to the pumping station in La Cachora, where sand and garbage are removed. There is a lot of garbage. All laws are complied with.

Ing. Carlos Hernandez, Global H2O Investments, represents a US company that builds and operates desalination plants and is the head engineer of the Pedregal Desalination Plant. He stated that Cabo now has five private as well as one public desalination plant. He also pointed out that 120 countries world-wide have desalination plants. He went on to explain that by nature we have desal. As seawater evaporates it creates precipitation which is then put back to the earth. Methods to extract are either to get seawater by direct intake from sea or by drilling beach wells. These methods are approved by CONAGUA. US law is different than Mexico law. We do have limitations on well drilling. There are new laws also when asking for permits.

Direct intake is not a good option, in his opinion. Ninety-five percent or more in the Cabo area use beach wells. The water is pumped to the desal system for pre-treatment filtration. Beach wells require less filtration. The water then is sent to the reverse osmosis system where it is passed through membranes. The system uses 3 gal of sea water to create 1 gal of potable water. All minerals are removed in the process and are put back to achieve the same criteria for potable water. Calcium carbonate is added post treatment, following the laws for alkaline and PH levels.

Lic. John Moreno said that he was happy to see such a good turnout, but only wished that there was more of the Mexican population in attendance. (See the ACTS’ note regarding this topic after these minutes). CONAGUA or Comision Nacional del Agua is the Federal Regulatory Body that governs all matters water. It governs and oversees States and Municipal Government water use and what it can be used for, as well as all individual concession titles, such as agriculture, individual, residential, commercial and services. Anyone can go to CONAGUA to obtain a concession for water rights, and as long as they meet the established criteria and comply with the terms and conditions set forth by the commission, they can be granted a water concession. CONAGUA regulates SAPA. Historically in Todos Santos the vast majority of concessions have been for agriculture use. During the past 20 years there has been a shift in local water use towards residential and services. Concessions can be transferred from one holder to another as long as the transfer and use is approved by CONAGUA. A titled holder can do with their concession as they wish as long as they comply with the specific terms and conditions set forth in the title.

John stated that he believes we are in a water deficit. More water is being used from the aquifers than is getting replenished. The two main types of water concessions are for surface waters and underground waters; each is regulated differently. Down in the Bajio or oasis there is a dam with 3 different pipes, two for the Ejido and one for the water association. Further, there are 2 water distribution systems, one Municipal and one Ejido. OOMSAPA is the only authorized entity to distribute potable water for residential use. The municipal pipe is very limited and old. The 1994 agrarian law reform that allowed for privatization of Ejido property created a trend that saw many new houses being built where there was once farmland. This created a shift in the water usage of our community. There are lots of uncertainties about the use of Ejido water. If you have agricultural activity you can be allowed to use Ejido water.

John is the President of the local Association of Water Users which has a concession for roughly 580 millares of surface water. The Association’s infrastructure includes all of the canal system that is directly linked from the canal source at the presa Juarez, which is fed by natural flow of water and eventually ends up in the La Poza lagoon. Surface water is considered natural springs, rivers, lagoons, lakes and estuaries. Anyone who has agricultural activity can join the Water Association, and have a vote on any common issue regarding the use and management of this concession. Cotas, is the technical committee for subterranean waters of any given individual Cuenca or water basin. The Consejo de Cuencas is the intermediary body between the government and civil society regarding policies, and public interest matters regarding water use in the State. This includes issuing opinions on permitting for mining, development and industry. The three main goals that are being pursued by the Association are: a) the establishment of the Reglamento de Uso de Agua para la Cuenca Todos Santos, b)legal installment of COTAS para la Cuenca Todos Santos, and c) achieving representation on the Consejo de Cuenca para el Estado de Baja California Sur.

This past year during the drought the water level went below the collection pipe for the Ejido canal system. Since their main ground water well pump wasn’t functioning, farmers came to the Association for needed water. Since they had crops in the ground we agreed to provide water on a temporary basis. Water was piped through the Ejido system, but this has now changed since the well has been rehabilitated and a new pump purchased; however, I hear it is very expensive. Currently they are in the process to update, improve and expand. The only replenishment for this water use is rain water and it all comes from the Sierra. People need to work together, to build pilas for storage and to not waste water. John then extended an invitation to come to his office if further information is requested.

Prof. Jesus Fruto Contreras, Todos Santos Ejido, thanked everyone for coming and wanted to make it clear that the Ejido was not putting on this Water Forum and that this is the second time ACTS has used the facility and he has been invited. He stressed that he is very concerned about the misuse of water. There needs to be more solutions to solve the growing problems. He stated that the government does not budget enough money to help solve the infrastructure problems. The 2000 meter-less homes need to have meters installed by the government and to start paying for their water. People need to pay for the use of Ejido water. There have been problems with the past Ejido administration giving away too many intakes to private interests. We can’t have this. Now we have a pump which uses a lot of electricity so that is one reason why the cost has gone up. Ejido regulates local connections to our infrastructure, but the main regulator of all concessions is CONAGUA. Ejido water is traditionally for agriculture use.

There are 8 wells of the Ejido in the Todos Santos area, but only 2 are in operation. CONAGUA must approve new paperwork for the other 6 water concessions. When there are new concessions there will be a meeting of Ejido members. The old water spring is dead, but a new well is working. People are paying more money to cover CFE pumping for which the electricity cost is 1500 pesos per day. The ‘low economic’ neighborhood of San Juan (north east of TS centro) does not have water at all. What are the solutions to local water shortages?? It is a great concern that the government does not budget the proper amount to repair and renovate needed water system infrastructure here. TS needs 2,000 meters to install for everyone to start paying for accurate use.

The Ejido will keep doing pubic forums and wants to develop programs in schools to educate the younger generation about water use. Perhaps we can create a new group for this.


Q – What is now required to get a water contract for someone wanting to build a new home?
A – SAPA – Title to the property, taxes paid and identification. Someone will need to come to the property to see it. The cost depends on the size of the house and land.

Q – Is it true that the Ejido sold rights to Tres Santos and how is this going to affect water supply in Todos Santos?
A – Prof. Contreras stated that the property was sold with rights to 500 millares surface water. Local departments say they do not know more.

Q – If Tres Santos Development is building massive water storage holding tanks, where are they getting water?
A –SAPA-We have nothing to do with their water. If there were concessions sold to the development, it would have to come from CONAGUA (Federal).

Q – Is MIRA asking SAPA for water?
A-SAPA – No. Check with Conagua. Conagua representatives were invited to this Water Forum but did not attend, maybe due to election time. If Mira requests new water concessions from CONAGUA, the local Ejido or SAPA have nothing to do with it. An Ejido concession is for agriculture, or for domestic use. They must request a ‘change of use’ thru CONAGUA.

Q-Robert Bentley spoke and stressed that he has studied the water situation here for the past 25 years. There is a limited amount of water that is all from the sierras and local aquifers. It is recharged by hurricane rains. A better system would be more storage (dams) between here and the mountains. In Todos Santos there is a lot of run off. None of you (panelists) know how it all works! I would like to help and give you information. The natural water system here in BCS is predictable with drought years and abundance years based on history of the past 25–30 years.

A -Prof. Contreras said thank you. CONAGUA has all the facts.

Q – Where does sewage treated water go?
A–Ing. Ricardo Millan explained that the water is used to irrigate construction sites, highways, roads and plants. Some is being dropped into arroyos to be absorbed into the aquifer. If someone needs water for streets or plants please ask for it.

Q – Can people buy water meters from SAPA?
A -OOMSAPA – One cannot go to a store to buy a meter; it must come from SAPA. There are not enough meters in the SAPA budget to install them where needed. There is a deficit of over 70,000 water meters in La Paz.

Prof. Contreras commented generally that a forum is used to give answers; however, we want to tell the authorities that we need to do something about the billing system. The law is not applied properly. We want to tell the authorities to act with honor. Water is a huge growing problem. There are leaks all over town because needed repairs cannot be made. Thousands of liters are lost. People need to check for misuse of water and those abusing should be fined. We all need to be united to make something happen, if there is no political will, nothing will change.

Q – Does SAPA provide water to the new CSU campus and 66 houses?
A – SAPA -There is no paperwork and are no local permits. Water for construction came from Salas as far as we know.

Q – Has MIRA installed a pump to augment the flow of water once they get permission?   

A – SAPA does not know, they do not have these facts.

Q – What can we do about all the corruption in SAPA billing in Pescadero?
A – OMSAPA -File a report in La Paz, come and talk with us today after the forum. There followed discussion regarding air valves which everyone needs to keep meters from spinning with nothing but air, creating huge bills that are not accurate.

Q – What happens to the brine from Desal plants when it goes back to the land/ocean and what kind of effect does this have on land and wildlife?
A – Ing. Hernandez, Global H2O – What we are doing is removing minerals and salt. We are not adding chemical toxic products to it. Chemicals are used in water treatment and drinking water. Water is extracted from an underground ‘wedge’ and non-potable water is then sent back to the ‘wedge’ to disburse through the sand and back to the ocean. There is a difference with direct intake systems as this water goes back to sea. Like at the poles, ice is melting and going into the sea. Only one percent of water in the world is fresh. With injection wells brine is discharged into sand, the sand filters and then that goes back to sea.

Additional comment from person questioning: The concentration of the salt brine from Desal discharge changes the water ph and can hurt all sea life where it is discharged. This in turn affects the sardines that other fish feed on and so on.

Q – This community has a high rate of cancer from toxic chemicals and pesticides that are used in chili farming that are not even allowed in other countries. Why is this permitted?
A – SAPA You need to call on the government to do scientific studies.

Q – How many times has water been measured for purity in the past 20 years?

A – OOMSAPA measures two times per year.

Questioner comment: SAPA does not test for heavy metals. We would need to do that and send to Mexico City for analysis. SAPA does bacterial tests, not chemical contamination.

Q – What role does Fonatur play in promoting Los Cabos?
A- Javier Salas, Prof. Contreras This is a totally other issue. Fonatur is not part of the water system. To solve problems we need to regulate ownership of land. Every house needs to be regulated by local authorities and the real estate market. Use treated water for parks, roads. Request and work with SAPA to request new meters from Conagua. First, however, locals must pay water bills, property taxes, construction licenses and such for making ends meet.

Request a “Factibilidad” from CONQGUA regarding our TS water situation. Conagua is the federal regulating body over distribution and is inchargeof all the water, state and local administrators, and are responsible for studies and quality.

Q- Ejido came to the house and sold us a water contract for my garden for 500 pesos a month. Now you say that Ejido water is only for agricultural use!?
A – John Moreno: Traditional use of Ejido water is for agricultural use, yes. However, many home owners have Ejido water as part of their ownership titles, etc, and others have depended upon Ejido water for palms, fruit trees & gardens etc, without selling agricultural goods. Ejido is doing these people a favor by letting them have access to the water in addition to the agricultural growers. The price went up from past years because the cost of pumping is much greater now.

Meeting ended—12:35 PM

Minutes submitted by ACTS Board of Directors on May 23, 2015


**ACTS’ Note regarding lack of Mexican population attendance
In order to encourage attendance by the local Mexican community, ACTS did the following prior to the May 16th Community Water Forum:

*Posted flyers in Spanish at various tiendas throughout Todos Santos;
*Posted a flyer in Spanish at Casa de Ejidal;
*Distributed almost 100 flyers to local Mexicans;
*Paid for large ads in both Spanish and English in the Baja Western Onion-two weeks;
*Paid for the “announcer car” to drive throughout various barrios on Fri., May 15th for two hours during late morning and two hours during the late afternoon, all in Spanish.

*Posted Community Water Forum info on Facebook in both Spanish and English; *Asked Mexican locals to post meeting on their Facebook pages.


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Ejido Water News

Commisioner’s meeting, Casa Ejidal


The Comisariado Ejidal Jesus Fruto Contreras led the meeting, and informed us of the following. He recapped a little history of how the source of our Juarez well dried out last year and the well of San Ignacio which had been closed for 15 years, was refurbished with a new pump and a transformer in order to continue to supply ejido water to farmers in our area. As of December 24th, 2014 the ejido water is flowing again.

The water is of the ‘Ejidatarios’ who receive a concession from Conagua to draw a particular number of millions of gallons per year. So the Ejido is giving us the concession, even though we are not farming our land.

The meeting today was to come to an agreement on how to charge for the water usage since there are no meters. The Ejido would like to continue to provide us with water if we are willing to pay our part and to be conscious of our usage. The valves will be open, you will have water every day. But you can’t have the valves open 24/7 or we will not have water for long. Each household can regulate their usage with a tinaco storage tank. Most of us can open valves twice a week to water our gardens and be fine with that. We can’t go over the usage amount defined by Conagua.

The monthly payment will be $500. pesos per household and was based on the projected Ejido’s yearly budget which will cover their electricity, repairs for the pump & other equipment and clerical help. This will be a 6-8 month adjusting period to see how the system is working.

Please go in the morning to the Casa Ejidal to pay at least January/February $500. pesos fee. Ask for a receipt and give your contact info: E-mail and phone, so they can start a document with all customers.

The rest of the months you can pay month to month. Or, if you pay 6 months at a time they will give you a 10% discount. (Users that are paying the hourly fee of $60 pesos and rely on a valve to be opened do not qualify on this payment method).  **Please help the ejido identify other users of the monthly fee method so they can be notified and included.  Casa Ejidal is open for payment from 8am-2pm (green fence down the street across from Lizarraga on Militar) Monday to Friday.

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Ejido Water Meeting Report 2014

Written by Gloria Santoyo Ruenitz for ACTS

There was a meeting at 4pm on Wednesday January 15th 2014 at the Casa Ejidal, with an open invitation to our community. Many thanks to all of you who attended this meeting.

It was led by Comisariado Blas Villalobos. We were informed that the Dam from where we have been getting our Ejido Water is almost dry. The construction of the new bypass bridge which diverted somewhat the flow of the water and the lack of rain are part of the reason for the shortage of water. We have had a shortage of Ejido Water, at least in the Tunas area, for the last 2 years.

Ejido water is legally and exclusively for agricultural purposes. Anyone who purchased water rights must have this specifically spelled out in their contract, it had to be deeded, and the ejidatario to give notice to the assembly. It is not automatic. Water rights are separate from the land. Some of us were lucky to buy lots which were originally chili fields, and were already hooked to Ejido Water lines.

Unfortunately, several Ejido Water Concessions were sold in the past few years for corporate use and that water is no longer available to the ejido and is being extracted up stream, contributing to the overall water shortage.

Through the years more and more people have built homes and hooked up to the original Ejido Water lines making it a higher water usage and demand, with less availability. The agricultural parcels have also grown in some areas, requiring more water during the high crop seasons of the year.

However we have come to the crossroads of the “emergency cry of NO more water”.

What is the solution? There is the well of San Ignacio which is fed by river water and is not being used at this time (it’s an old well that held water rights that the ejido sold). The Ejido Todos Santos already has a concession and is looking to get authorized to extract the water from this well. However it needs refurbishing, cleaning, a new pump and a transformer to get it back in operation. The procedure to follow is to present a proposal to Conagua in La Paz, in order to get permits and economic support for the labor and parts needed to get this well in operation. Conagua has a cash back rebate program that returns up to 50% of the cost after a project is finished. Comisariado Blas Villalobos is asking for help from our community in order to come up with the funds necessary to cover the cost of this work at the time of the proposal since the money needs to be in place in order for Conagua to approve.

The first step will be to get the estimate ready to see how much money is needed. At that time another meeting will be called by Comisariado Blas Villalobos.

Once this situation is solved and the new well is in operation the Ejido Water will be regulated, in other words you will be paying depending on your usage.

Comisariado Blas suggested making things more efficient, including having people building cisternas to hold water. As well as set up a Schedule and proper management and control for operating and maintaining the infrastructure.

There is another well in Las Tunas area but it is smaller than the one in San Ignacio and at this time there is no consideration of tapping into this one.

Gaddo Piazzesi offered the help of our community members, knowing that we have Engineers in our Group, who might be able to help source out a good price for a pump, help with logistics or oversee the Project. If you are one of these people and have knowledge in this area please step forward and offer your help.

It was asked that the funds are managed properly and its use is transparent to the community.  Pierre Jambor asked to please give equal amounts to everyone with Ejido water rights. “If there is a lot… everyone gets a lot, if there is very little, everyone gets very little.” Equality to all.

For the time being the Ejido Water will still run, but with restraint. There is very little left.

We hope that the estimate process is done in a short period of time, before the next meeting is called. It could be 4 to 5 months before they get the new well refurbished after the application period and getting the funds in place.

We encourage all of you to participate and get involved in our community issues. Please find out more, and attend the meetings…!