Mexicans create wetlands to ease drought, ensure adequate supply of water

Luis Villalobos/Agencia EFE

Twenty years into a drought that shows no sign of abating, people in northern México are turning to the creation of wetlands as a way to ensure an adequate supply of water in a region that depends on agriculture.

The Mexicali Valley wetland project involves what amounts to recycling the residual water from this city on the border with the United States to enable some 30,000 farmers to irrigate their crops.

“We are taking advantage of the tools that nature provides us,” said project biologist Guimel Muñoz. “In this case the plants, through their roots, generate bio-filters that consume the excess nutrients in the residual water.”

Those natural bio-filters neutralize the pH, break down pollutants and block the reproduction of methane, he said.

“If we carried out the management of water treatment in a natural way, we would save millions of pesos, because thanks to the wetland conditions are created that favor the fauna and the landscape,” Muñoz said.

Industria Mexicana de Coca-Cola has pledged 170 million pesos ($8.5 million) for the project in line with its corporate commitment to return to nature 100 percent of the water it uses to make soft drinks.

Other funding comes from the state of Baja California, whose governor, Marina del Pilar Ávila Olmeda, stresses the need to pursue solutions compatible with nature.

Environmental activist Marisol Montaño views the creation of wetlands as a mechanism to address the problem of drought while simultaneously reducing contamination of the soil.

“We have to promote the creation of additional artificial wetlands because it is the most natural way to carry out water treatment,” she said.

Much of present-day Mexicali was built on ground once covered by water from the Colorado River, Montaño pointed out, adding that the level of the Colorado is expected to drop next year and México’s share of the water will likewise decline.

“This drought is evident and the excess consumption of water can be reduced by giving it a second touch, treating it and making it into irrigation water,” she said.

The Mexicali Valley wetland will have the capacity to treat more than 4 million liters a day of residual water.