The Eco-Salon is a regular opportunity for Amigos members and guests to gather to discuss a range of concerns – mostly environmental – in an casual manner with a delicious meal at SMA’s only farm to fork restaurant, Temporada on the premises of el Trinidad. The first Eco-Salon was held on February 25 with Mike Lambert, president of Amigos, giving a half hour presentation on the various water quantity and quality problems of this region.
As promised at the beginning, he said his talk would be short on problems and long on solutions. The 25 or so people attending ordered food and drink and after the meal engaged in a nearly two hour lively discussion on the various solutions presented. At the end, Mike announced the formation of an Environmental Committee – a “think tank” – that would meet every couple months and help to hammer out specific strategies.
During the ‘problems’ portion of his talk, he spelled out how this region’s scarce water supply is due to the fact that the aquifer is being drained far faster than it is being replenished and the public health implications of the resulting problems of water shortages and concentrations of fluoride and arsenic. The facts are well known having been extensively researched and documented more than 10 years ago.
He then turned to a description of the region’s contaminated surface water supply pointing out that the Presa Allende, the reservoir for nearly all of this region, is fed by the Rio Laja and the various arroyos that run into the Presa primarily the Cachinches. Black water illegally flows into the Rio Laja and Cachinches. Someday, he said, water experts predict that we will be using the Presa Allende as a source of drinking water and we need to start now to stop the sources of contamination.
Mike then listed and briefly described the various solutions with which Amigos is actively involved. Some of the actions he described are:
1. The Stream Observation program where volunteers go out to selected sections of the Cachinches, Rio Laja, and Presa Allende on a monthly basis to report on what they see. Critical observations are reported to the authorities and followed up on if no actions are taken. (See ‘Las Cachinches’ below for a summary of the most recent report).
2. Water Treatment Team is a group of members who are working with the ejido, San Miguel Viejo, to tackle the problem of sewage being used to irrigate crops and water livestock. Excess amounts of deliberately diverted sewage water is dumped into the Presa Allende by SAPASMA. (This is due in part because the SMA sewage plant is too small to deal with all the sewage that should be treated there). The Water Treatment Team is following the recommendations of the Community Water Action Plan (CWAP) to construct a large settling pond or lagoon that would naturally treat the sewage water before it is sent to the crops and the Presa removing some of the most serious contaminants.
3. Amigos is engaged in various ‘institutional initiatives’ which aim to address some of these problems through a variety of means including education. These include, the Coalition of Churches to Combat Climate Change*, the Committee to Promote Environmentally Sustainable Practices in Real Estate and Development*, the “We Save Water” campaign* to help patrons of local restaurants and hotels to learn about water conservation efforts, the Citizen’s Based Water Conservation campaign* an effort to raise the consciousness of household within SMA and to encourage water conservation within SMA homes. *These are working titles of these initiatives.
4. Compliance with the cultural and environmental standards established by UNESCO for qualification and monitoring of the performance in “World Heritage” properties. An official complaint has been sent by third parties (and received by) to UNESCO alleging several areas wherein SMA is in violation including the problem of sewage going into the Cachinches and Presa Allende. Letters from SMA residents are being sought that support the investigation of these allegations.
5. Amigos is working in coalition with other regional environmental groups that are seeking to address the most serious water issues in our area through, Observatorio Ciudadano del Agua y Saneamiento (OCAS). Residents may join this group even if they have no particularl affiliation with an NGO. See aguavidasma.organd visit OCAS San Miguel de Allende on Facebook.
6. Among the solutions discussed was the importance of every individual household becoming aware of the water facts and water conservation tips. Summaries of both can be found on the Amigos website. Finally, it was proposed that an environmental book club be started with the first book being, The End of Abundance – economic solutions to water scarcity, by David Zetland.
As already noted, the discussion was lively and several very excellent points and suggestions were raised by the participants. Watch for them to be further explained in future issues of Amigos News and Events.
The next Eco-Salon is scheduled for April 7th at 6:00 PM and will be titled, ‘Meet the Presa’, presented by Victor Joubert.