It costs $ 2.1 billion to bring lead-free and arsenic-free water to the Yaquis in Sonora


The water extracted and distributed to 50 Yaquis towns in Sonora has been of poor quality for several years, according to Conagua.

The construction of the  Yaqui Aqueduct,  a promise from Andrés Manuel López Obrador to bring potable water free of arsenic, lead, sodium, manganese and fecal coliforms to the Yaqui communities, will cost more than 2 thousand 165 million pesos.

According to the National Water Commission (Conagua), the water extracted and distributed to the Yaquis communities is of poor quality, because it contains lead, arsenic, manganese, sodium and fecal coliforms in concentrations higher than the maximum permitted limits.

The water in quantity and quality will be received by 50 communities of the Yaqui people of Sonora, who for several years have been drinking the liquid with arsenic that can cause bladder, lung, kidney, liver cancer, hyperpigmentation, hypopigmentation and hyperkeratosis, as well as damage to the cardiovascular system, kidney and liver disorders, says the study Construction of the Intermunicipal Drinking Water Supply System for Yaquis Communities, Sonora.

“In accordance with the results of the water quality of the 2020 sampling campaign in the supply sources of the localities of the Yaqui people, in 100% of the samples the presence of arsenic was found”, states the document held by  Forbes Mexico.

The water drunk by the residents of Vícam Pueblo, Limones, Vícam Switch, Babojori, Casas Blancas and Casa Azul has arsenic in a concentration of 0.067 mg / l, higher than the maximum permissible limit of 0.025 mg / l according to NOM-127 -SSA1-1994 (2.7 times above the IMP).

The towns of Compuertas, Coracepe, Tetabiate, Bahía de Lobos, Tápiro, Rahum, Pótam, Eta, Huiribis, Guasimitas, Tórim, Babojori, Vícam Switch, Casas Blancas, Casa Azul and Loma de Bácum are supplied with water with levels of arsenic that they exceed the World Health Organization (WHO) standard.

The water quality results from norias, the Yaquis, Guaymas aqueduct and deep wells show that the localities of Chumampaco, Tajimaroa, Lomita, Estación Corral, Huiribis, Pitahaya, Estación Corral, Vícam Switch, Loma de Bácum, Loma de Guamúchil, Guasimitas and Tórim show the presence of lead in a concentration higher than the maximum permissible limit, which is 0.010 mg / l according to NOM-127-SSA1-1994.

The lead found in the water drunk by these Yaqui inhabitants ranges from 0.027 to 0.076 mg / l (7.6 times above the MPL).

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has as a priority work the construction of the Yaqui Aqueduct, which will probably begin its construction on September 28, 2021, the day on which the Day of Forgiveness will be celebrated for the repressed and marginalized native peoples since the foreign invasion ( Spanish conquest) and after independence.

For a presidential mandate, the Presidential Commission of Justice for the Yaqui People was created, an organization that is in charge of accompanying the demands of the eight Yaqui peoples and building solutions on axes such as land and territory, water and the environment, and the strengthening of the culture and identity of the Yaqui people.

Yaqui resistance

Upon their arrival, the Spanish gave the river’s name to the settlers who lived in its plains. In order to integrate them, the missionaries founded eight mission towns along the river, which currently function under a territorial, political and religious scheme, although they have reduced territory and access to river water that has sustained resources. natural and symbolic throughout its history.

The Yaqui people are one of the most resistant indigenous societies since they have faced complex and conflictive inter-ethnic relations since the arrival of the Spanish to their territory in 1533 to the present day.

They have also faced multiple conflicts that have given them a great capacity for organization and the use of some of their cultural and linguistic aspects as effective tools in shaping their identity resources, as well as being fundamental when practicing their ethnicity in crisis situations.

The Spanish realized the economic possibilities when exploiting the fertile farmland taking advantage of the river water. Later, politicians and businessmen launched campaigns to deprive the Yaquis of their land and water, which resulted in a permanent struggle to try to protect a territory that the indigenous group considers sacred. This situation has been aggravated since the construction of the dams that contain the river’s water.

Despite their intense struggle, they were stripped of their territory and only after the decree promulgated in 1940 by President Lázaro Cárdenas did they recover a third of their original territorial space and the right of access to 50 percent of the waters of the La dam. Angostura and the Yaqui River runoff.

The decree has not been respected by the authorities, who have constantly reduced the tribe’s right to water, in addition to the fact that with the implementation of the extraction of water from the Yaqui River through the Independencia aqueduct, they further limit the access of the Yaquis to the use of the vital liquid. The Yaquis’ struggle has been strongly linked to what they consider to be their ancestral territory.

“At present, rivers are in serious problems due to the strong reduction in the flow of water from the tributary, which entails a marked loss of the source of resources that once represented one of the most important identity emblems of their culture”, says the study carried out at the request of Conagua.

“The critical loss of resources experienced by the yoemem in recent decades is due to the control of the flow of water from the river and its tributaries through the system of dams,” says the document.

The work

Conagua detected that there is a deficit in the volume of drinking water to supply the localities inhabited by the Yaqui population in the state of Sonora.

Additionally, the San José de Guaymas aquifer, where the water for the Yaquis is extracted, registers serious problems of abatement and over-exploitation of volumes much higher than recharge.

To bring water to the Yaquis, they will make a direct tower-type intake inside the Oviachic dam reservoir. There, a 55-meter-high tower will be built, with a width of 10 meters and a length of 13 meters to house a surveillance area, the control center and the pumping equipment.

The tower at the Oviachic dam will be connected to the base of the hill that is on the right bank of the Álvaro Obregón dam, by means of a bridge that has a length of approximately 150 meters. There comes an access road that would have to be built and connected to an existing access road to reach the water treatment plant, which is at a distance of 3.2 km.

The water treatment plant will have a treatment train to obtain drinking water in accordance with NOM-127-SSA-1994 with a construction area close to 1.5 hectares.

The treatment process begins with the capture of raw water, which is sucked by pumping equipment and transported to the clarifier where the flocculation and sedimentation processes will take place. Then it will go through a first zeolite filter and the product is taken to a tank of filtered water, then it is passed through more zeolite filters to remove the manganese.

“If there is a bad smell, it will go through a degassing structure to eliminate bad odors. Later, the purified water will be led to the aqueduct, which is the third structure of the supply system, ”explains Conagua.

The Yaqui Aqueduct will be close to 165.75 km long and will be made up of HDPE (High-Density Polyethylene) pipes, which are buried.

During the route of this conduction and due to its length it is necessary to place 2 pumping plants; with the capacity to conduct 200 l / s, to be able to supply the liquid in the appropriate quantity, quality and pressure to each one of the beneficiary localities.

Branches with an extension of close to 113.63 km will also be built that will be derived from the aqueduct to provide service to communities where the aqueduct does not reach.

The installed capacity of the infrastructure will be 200 liters per second, which guarantees to cover the demand for drinking water for the 50 communities of the Yaqui people.

The useful life of the Intermunicipal Drinking Water Supply System for Yaquis Communities is 30 years and it is considered to start operations in 2024, once the construction of the water treatment plant and the conduction works are completed.

The Sonora Post