The Scoop on the Water Shortage

What’s going on?

The water problem in Ensenada has been an alarming issue for all of us ever since last year when the water company declared that it did not enough water to supply all of the city. Water officials said at that time that they needed around 210 gallons per second to make everyone in the city happy but they could only deliver around 190 gallons per second.  Because they were missing roughly 20 gallons per second–they would be forced to deliver water in rotation, by neighborhood. This basically meant that you would have water in your house but only on mornings, or nights; or maybe one day you had the precious liquid and the next day you didn’t. At least you got some water and if you had a water tank this wasn’t a big issue. After all, we all had to pitch in, in this time of crisis.

drought.jpgThe government promised that a lot was being done to resolve the problem, starting with a few wells that were being drilled in the Doña Petra Canyon area that were supposed to instantly fulfill the water deficit. This was all we needed, we were told, to happy campers again.

But just to make sure we didn’t have more problems in the long run, the water company decided to hire a Spanish company (who later sold that company to a South Korean company,) to build a desal plant that would guarantee around 65 more gallons per second. The plant is currently being built and is expected to start producing water early next year.

But the wells in the canyon didn’t perform as expected and the water problem wasn’t resolved, water shortages continued, and people were getting really mad because some of them didn’t have any water for weeks.

Many of the areas that don’t have water for long periods are some of the lowest income parts of the city and they have to buy their water from trucks, which get around $2.50 per 65 gallons. Considering that the minimum wage is around $4.30 per day, most people can’t afford to buy off the trucks.

Pressured by the public and by  civil organizations, the state government decided on another option to get an adequate water supply to Ensenada:  use the water line that goes from La Mision to Rosarito to reverse the flow, and connect it to the Colorado River in Tijuana and continue it south all the way to Ensenada. This, they said, would guarantee an extra flow of around 80 gallons per second which would definitely fix the problem.

The $9 million contract to accomplish this was assigned in a controversial process to Constructora Makro, a construction company already under fire because they got the $60 million contract to repair the toll road. Worse, they got this job without competitive bids, because –the government said- it was an emergency. The process was made even more controversial because they were given the no bid contract because the company owed about $2.6 million in taxes that they promised they would pay if only they got the $9 million water contract. Of course other construction companies felt this was, at the very best, sending the wrong message saying, “don’t pay your taxes on time and you can get more sweetheart public contracts”.  Still others called it a bad example of corruption.

As the new water solution was being finished, they started allowing a flow of around 26 gallons per second, just for starters they said, from Tijuana to Ensenada.

This didn’t work out very well as the pressure broke the old water line that was already on the ground (from Rosarito to La Mision) in several places. This made the water problem bigger, leaving some parts south of Rosarito and La Mision without any water at all.

This has hurt everyone, from private individuals to businesses. The staff at Dmitry’s La Fonda Restaurant and Hotel told us they hadn’t had a drop of water for more than a month, and that they were paying dearly for water since they had to buy up to five truckloads of water on busy days at a price of about 30 bucks each.

Authorities claim they almost have the water problem solved, and that the new system was working intermittently, but it doesn’t feel that way for most people who are still out of water and in some cases even worse off than a year ago.

Now the city says the water problem should come to an end when the desal plant comes online next year, but this will also mean a higher water bill for all of us since this water will be a lot more expensive.

It seems that the water problem is at best inept management by city officials, and at worst, the result of yet more corruption. All we the ordinary citizen can do is try not to waste precious water, so we can share what we have.  And remember this crappy situation when you vote in the next city election.