Every drop of water used in Puerto Vallarta is provided by Seapal. The company which provides us with all water and sewage services is the keystone to all life here. Seapal has a huge responsibility to all Mexicans and ex-pats living here. How is it doing?
Reports from the company show that it is providing an excellent service. Last month, Seapal received its 28th consecutive annual award for good water quality and good sanitary sewer operation from the Federal Ministry of Health. It is the only organization in Mexico to have had such a long record.
Soraya Topete Camacho, the head of the laboratory department, said “The population can rest assured that they are receiving quality water. Tourists can feel calm, you can open a tap to fill your glass of water and drink it with confidence.” That’s good!
The cool, clear water that we enjoy in Puerto Vallarta is cheap too. According to data provided by the various water utilities in the country, drinking water rates for the domestic sector in Puerto Vallarta are below those in Los Cabos, Cancun or Acapulco. That’s good too!
But there’s a question. The mission statement of any organization defines what an organization is and its reason for being. Seapal’s mission statement reads, in part, “We have as a fundamental purpose, to satisfy the needs of potable water and sewerage of the users of Puerto Vallarta, at fair and reasonable prices, with a high level of quality, preserving the ecological environment, thus contributing to the economic and social well-being of the community.” Can’t argue with that.
But in the four words, “PRESERVING THE ECOLOGICAL ENVIRONMENT” is where the big question looms. When I refer to the heading “The Hydrological Cycle” on the Seapal website (seapal.gob.mx/el-ciclo-hidrologico/), I am greeted with a diagram showing evaporation, condensation, precipitation followed by a river, a lake, a water treatment plant and lots of buildings. No mention of an aquifer anywhere.
That makes no sense because, from the appearance of the three rivers that flow through Puerto Vallarta, there is not enough water from them to support a population of 300,000, let alone the millions of tourists who come each year. There is no desalination plant in P.V., so the water has to be coming from an aquifer or two. If so, is Seapal providing excellent services now, but not “preserving the ecological environment” by looking far enough into the future? That’s the big question.
Geo-Mexico publishes papers about the geography and dynamics of modern Mexico. An article titled “Mexico’s freshwater aquifers: undervalued and overexploited” states that Mexico’s groundwater aquifers are an essential resource and about 64% of public water supplies come from wells sunk into aquifers. According to the National Water Commission, many of the country’s aquifers are overexploited in that more water is withdrawn each year than is naturally replaced. Hmm!
According to our go-to encyclopedia, Wikipedia, “Nearly 50% of the workforce in Puerto Vallarta is employed in tourism-related industries: hotels, restaurants, personal services, and transportation.” No kidding! We all know that. But with no tourists, Puerto Vallarta will be a shadow of the place it is today. And if Seapal’s water supply (read “aquifer”) is unable to keep on pumping out water for the next fifty or five hundred years, this city will cease to exist.
Would it be too much to ask Seapal to have an independent, professional assessment done of our aquifer and to publish the results by the end of 2019? How much water did the aquifer hold fifty years ago? How much today? What is the current annual net drawdown? Can it be replenished from rainwater? How? These are the questions to which we need answers.
After all, present residents and those buying in the future could lose much of their life’s savings if their properties become worthless. Much worse, will be the plight of those Mexicans who depend on tourism and who will become displaced if this source of income dries up. We all need a long-term guarantee of clean, cool water.
Seapal has been greatly appreciated since its inception in 1977, and it is today. We enjoy the best water available. But the company needs to re-assure us that the future is bright too. Without water we won’t be here.