Achieving reclaimed water reuse in a drought-prone city in northern Mexico. Experiences and results.
Although untreated wastewater in Mexico is commonly reused for the irrigation of crops with little or no supervision, this investigation presents the steps needed to achieve the reuse of treated wastewater in the northern city of Ensenada, in Baja California. Ensenada experiences severe water restrictions for urban and agriculture use and reclaimed water for crop irrigation and aquifer infiltration have been identified as promising water management options. The local aquifers used as groundwater sources have been overexploited for many years and the severe drought affecting Baja California for the past five years has made it imperative to look for new sources of water. One such source is the reuse of reclaimed water for crop irrigation in the neighboring agricultural valley of Maneadero. After at least ten years of negotiations between the local water utility, government officials, and farmers, in which academics played an important role as neutral negotiators, reclaimed water was sent to Maneadero in June 2014. This paper presents the path followed to consolidate the reclamation scheme and, as a result of monitoring programs on reclaimed water, groundwater, and agricultural soil, highlights the benefits and challenges that it faces. The sum of all steps, namely, (1) reclaimed water quality; (2) groundwater quality; (3) water management options; (4) stakeholders’ negotiation and institutional arrangements; and (5) monitoring and impact on the environment were decisive in consolidating the water reuse scheme in Ensenada. In conclusion, technical aspects can be monitored and controlled yet the most challenging aspects that remain are the social and political that require extensive negotiation and institutional arrangements.
Leopoldo has a first degree in Oceanography from the University of Baja California at Ensenada, a Master in Science in Water Pollution Control Technology and a PhD in Water Sciences from Cranfield University in the UK. In April 1999 he joined the Institute of Oceanographic Research at the University of Baja California as professor where his main research field has been wastewater treatment and reuse of reclaimed water. He has been a strong advocate of reclaimed water reuse in Baja California and in Ensenada in particular. Thanks to his and his colleagues’ studies, water reuse is taking place for the irrigation of non-edible crops in Ensenada. Leopoldo has published more than 40 scientific papers that have received more than 1,000 citations. He and his students have given presentations in more than 35 international conferences all over the world. Leopoldo has spent a couple of sabbatical years at UC Davis, working in collaboration with Professors Jay Lund, Josue Medellin and Samuel Sandoval. He has been the academic supervisor of undergraduate students, as well as masters and doctorate students. Leopoldo has published in the main journals in the water field and currently is an Associate Editor of the journal Water Science and Technology published by the International Water Association.