By Brooke Gazer
Aside from Huatulco’s natural beauty, we chose to live here because of the excellent infrastructure. Water is now or will become a major issue in many parts of the world so before investing we wanted assurance that there would always be an abundant supply. FONATUR has two types of water treatment facilities: potable and recycled. Potable water is fresh water which has been treated and is piped into every property within the development. Recycled water is sewage that has been treated and is used to keep the public areas lush and green year round.
Huatulco’s potable water comes from a series of 8 wells located several KM into the mountains near the Copalita River. On several occasions over the past couple of years Huatulco has experienced a shortage of water, especially during holidays when all homes and hotels are filled to capacity. The problem was that three wells required maintenance and the funds for this were not immediately forthcoming. As with any mechanical devise, the longer this was delayed the graver the situation became. Fortunately, this problem has been solved.
The first two weeks of March was a rather trying time for residents of Huatulco while some of the wells underwent major repair and as they were temporarily out of service, water was in short supply. Refurbishing of the wells began February 25 and the intention was to take about two weeks to complete the work. Unfortunately, they ran into an unexpected problem which delayed the project and intensified the temporary shortage. It was also incredibly costly. On two separate occasions a total of 1200 meters of 1/0 gauge copper electrical wire was stolen from the site! This meant that the newly serviced wells could not operate until more wire could be reordered and installed to provide power.
In spite of the temporary difficulties, things are now working normally and Huatulco made it through the Easter high season without any water issues. We are assured the wells are now in tip top condition and should function properly in the coming years. Their current capacity provides us with 191 liters per second and the potential output will soon be increased even further.
As Huatulco continues to develop, more water will be required. FONATUR has funds and approval to construct two new wells in the immediate future and eventually plans to develop up to five more wells of a similar nature. In addition to these, there is a plan to develop a “RANEY” well which is a much deeper system and will capture only ground water that would otherwise escape into the sea. Apparently these new installations will guarantee sufficient water supply to Huatulco for the next twenty years, including projected expansion. At the moment there are about 4000 hotel rooms in Huatulco and the usage between the hotels and the community at large is about 54%/46%.
The municipality expects everyone to install “tinacos” or cisterns as a back up system and plans to continue cutting water supply to each sector (including the hotel zone) on a regular although much shorter basis. The reason for this inconvenience is largely to emphasize that we all must be diligent in conserving water. When water comes directly from the street, the pressure is much stronger. If it flows by a gravity system from a tinaco the pressure is weaker which reminds people to conserve it. Of course the large hotels and many luxury villas have installed pressurized systems, in which case the message is lost.
In theory this water is potable, meaning people can drink it directly from the tap. FONATUR uses a chlorination system of five parts per million and water is analyzed monthly according to the World Health Organization’s “CUMPLE” health dept. rules. Although water is potable when it leaves the processing station, the pipes delivering water and in the storage systems in various hotels or residence may not be perfect. For this reason many residents prefer to buy drinking water in large 20 lt “garrafón” bottles or to install an independent water purification system.
Every sector has at least one “Carcamo” plant for collecting and treating sewage water to be converted into water suitable for gardens. The benefit of this system is two fold. First it means that no sewage is being pumped out to sea; an extremely important ecological point considering the geography of Huatuclo and the sheltered nature of the bays. This system helped Huatulco to earn the coveted “Earth Check Gold Certified Community Award”. Huatulco is the only region in Mexico and one of the few in North America that has this kind of infrastructure and winning this award was as a major accomplishment. The other benefit is that we conserve a huge amount of fresh water while allowing the town to appear beautifully lush and green all year round.
At the moment recycled water is only available to the parks, boulevards, a few major hotels and the golf course. About 30% of this water is delivered though pipes while the rest is distributed via trucks with large water tanks. These tanks often have the following printed on the side: “esta agua no es para humanos” or “this water is not for humans”
According FONATUR’s “master plan” for the development, large properties with extensive gardens will eventually have access to this water at a reduced rate from the potable water system. Although Huatulco sometimes produces more recycled water than it can consume, there is currently not enough to provide to private residences and the infrastructure for delivery is not presently in place. It will be a major undertaking to install underground pipes to carry recycled water throughout the municipality but eventually we hope that this is something we can look forward to. In the meantime we are fortunate that Huatulco has a system in place that keeps the sea crystalline blue and the public areas a myriad of greens. It is one of the many things that makes Huatulco such a great place to live or to visit!
Brooke Gazer operates Agua Azul la Villa, a bed and breakfast in Huatulco www.bbaguaazul.com