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Water Watch 2022! Part 2

I stood on a hilltop with Cornelio Zapata, a 30 year resident of La Misión. We look down on the estuary and the la Misión River. He shakes his head and says with deep concern, “I have never seen the river so low. It use to run all the way out to the ocean and there were clear pure swimming places. Now it is green with algae.” His small comfortable home was once the only dwelling on the hill. He has had at one time a vast nearly 360 degree view of the ocean and all the way to the eastern mountains. Now it is surrounded by huge multilevel homes all needing water. He is experiencing for the first time a new water restriction.  Senor Zapata added that his good friend, who grew the sweetest white corn, can’t grow it this year; his pump can no longer reach the aquifer which is now too low. While La Misión has always had a natural supply of water from the mountain region and aquifers, it is being threatened. The major cities of Tijuana to Ensenada are impacted by the Colorado River allotment cutbacks which were reported in Part 1 of Water Watch 2022.  

Local Reports and Solutions for 2022 Historically people act when motivated to do so. The question is will we be forced into this new reality? Will it be a wakeup to learn we have outgrown Baja’s natural resources, as well as the Colorado River allotment of 1944? Senior Zapata is not the only one in La Misión with water issues. Several new mega houses were built next to his home and neither was given access to water by La Misión Water Company. These homes will rely on the water trucks to chug up the hill. It is reported that the truck owners have their own private wells where they fill up their trucks. Many of the easy sources dried up this year. 

John Stadelmann, The President of the Board of Directors for ten years of La Misión Water Company addresses this in his newly released video.  He is proud to announce that water delivery to the homes in La Misión has been “spectacular,” compared to CSPT delivery records in Tijuana and Ensenada. CSPT has frequent break downs and repairs, and “they just don’t have enough water to go around.” Mr. Stadelmann goes on to say that it is important to know the Water Board operates on a license with CONAGUA, the federal water board for all of Mexico. These licenses have 10 year duration, but La Misión’s expired in 2018. Given the fact that high powered lawyers have worked hard to resolve this, the license is still not renewed four years later. “There is a rumor, Stadelmann shared, “between water experts and lawyers that CONAGUA has an intent to close the small private wells to make it possible to give the big municipal suppliers like CSPT of Tijuana and Ensenada, more water volume to distribute.” The La Misión Water Company will fight to keep their water rights.

Mr. Stadelmann continued, “The second more immediate and larger threat comes from within our very community.” CONAGUA, dictates just how much water can be pump from the aquifer each year. Consider the fact that we are able to pump 10 million gallons per year! All the rules on usage per household are driven by this limit.” He said that in 2018 the community rarely used more than two-thirds of the total, and were safely within the limit. But in 2021 it shot up to 82%; at this rate the usage will exceed the license by 2024. Stadelmann warns, “If the abuses continue CONAGUA can shut down our well. It would be an utter catastrophe.” He points a finger directly at the issue of the increase in homes being built and the thoughtless chronic over users. The water is not for swimming pools, fountains, or landscapes. “These chronic over users could be the cause of our license to be repealed…The message is simple, the solutions are not. We all must use a whole lot less if we expect to continue to live here. It requires education, reeducation, some technology and lots of discipline. We are in it together.” These words apply to every coastal community in this state.

Local Reports and long time resident of Bajamar, Ruth Rockwell, says that they have had to close 9 holes of the golf course. Residents in Ensenada are out of city water for a week or more.  Punta Del Mar uses their gray water for landscaping. San Antonio Del Mar is attempting to put together a plan to become self-sufficient, and not rely on the government’s delivery system. John Stadelmann stresses that the water trucks will have to travel to the high plateau and fill from the catch basin which is meant to recharge the underground sources. The increase in rates can’t be far behind. It is skillful to question any new developers as to how they will address their own water and wastewater issues. It isn’t how beautiful the future home may appear, but will there be water to flush the toilet. 

Real Solutions should have begun two decades ago. Now it is a rush to catch up, if and when the issue seems real enough in people’s minds. Humanity along the Colorado River has literally drunk the once mighty Colorado dry. Drilling deeper and desal plants are future timelines with major issues. Be careful falling into false hope; be part of the solution and not part of the problem.  If there is a first most important step it would be to appreciate and develop gratitude for the water every time we use it. Realize how many times a day we need it. Appreciation can create the first abatement to our overuse. The next step, get serious about the water declines. We can act now from the comfort of our homes. Create appreciation by taking a few minutes to watch the two videos below. Educate yourself and look for personal solutions. Support the front line workers and begin to understand that we are all interdependent and share this extraordinary water network. 

Martina is a Freelance writer, see her ad for ordering her travel book, Dust In My Sandals

Contact Information:

Margarita Diaz Directora Proyecto Fronterizo

664-630-0590, Cell 664-188-62-36

margarita@pfea.org   www.pfea.org

John Stadelmann link for La Misión

Videos of our Water’s 86 mile journey to our homes

www.cea.gob.mx/arct.html

Water Watch 2022

Water Watch for 2022 is a portent of times to come. I first began writing about where the water for Baja California came from in 2007. There were warnings even then. It was said that the 21st century would be about water as the 20th century has been about oil. More recently you will find on the Gringo Gazette website a two part Water Watch, August for 2021: Part 1, “Our Water Supply is Not Unlimited,” informed the readers that 86% of our water comes from the Colorado River and the amazing feat of engineering that went into bringing the water down from the Colorado River. Part 2 of Water Watch warned of the cuts to our allotment from the Colorado River that would be coming in 2022. The cuts are here now. There is no report of any new progress to avert more shortages, and it would seem most people are still unaware of the critical facts.

In April of this year, San Antonio Del Mar held a community workshop on their issue of water and sewage treatment. While their main focus was the toxicity of the ocean waters that still take the run off wastewater from Tijuana, Margarita Diaz, the Directora Proyecto Fronterizo, was there to give a comprehensive overview of what is happening with the water for Baja. Her report was dismal.  The facts laid out in the first Water Watch articles last year have worsened today. These facts are based on the continuation of a 22-year drought, extreme heat in the west, agriculture usage, and over development. 

Margarita is a thirty year Water Protector veteran, cofounder of the nonprofit; Proyecto Fronterizo de Educación Ambiental A.C, PFEA, for awareness has had a rough go of it. She is a one woman visionary attempting to move a stagnate consciousness of the people. She has been met with a lack of interest; however, more recently, she is facing unfriendly and harsh resistance. She presented her facts with impassioned clarity to the small community turn out. Her opening statement that day was having heard from her colleagues in Utah. This is a state which is part of the Upper River Basin and it is a beneficiary of water from the once mighty river. It was a disconcerting laugh as she explained, “They are really stressed. And that made me think if they are stress up there, how stressed should I be?”  She held the microphone and pointed to the charts, “The cut are here now!” 

She reported that there is no longer any underground water for the Tecate Brewery which uses a huge amount of water in producing beer, and continued, “At this time due to the water cuts, Mexicali farmers are selling their water to Tijuana as the city’s population continues to grow. Margarita’s frustration level is pretty high when most recently she faced the men of CEPT and was told, “Don’t worry we have the Colorado and they have to give us the water.” And yet another insightful comment, “Don’t worry we have the ocean.” This fiery Mexicana rose up to her 5’ 4”stature and asked them point blank, “So, you are planning on drinking the ocean?” They had no response.

As Margarita pointed out, Lake Mead is a barometer for Baja’s water cuts. If the level should drop below a certain point, no water can be issued because there would not be enough water to turn the massive turbines that produce electricity at Hoover Dam; one of the largest hydropower plants in the United States. The 1944 treaty gave Baja an allotment of water, but was amended in 2017 dealing with the decline in US reservoirs. 2022 is the first year of the cuts and will automatically be reduced further for Arizona, Nevada, California and Baja. Whether or not you follow the Climate Change as a factor of life, you don’t have to be a scientist to know that if you leave a bowl of water out in the hot sun it will evaporate.  The Colorado River is like a big bowl of water that runs through the desert. The intensification of summer heat in the west creates a more rapid increase of evaporation. Rain and snow pack reductions each year are not filing the reservoirs and have not for a very long time. One spokes person said that it would take 4 years of rains and heavy winter snow packs to bring water levels back to sustainable. One of the reports Margarita shared came from the Utah Rivers Council who put it in laypersons terms. “The Colorado River is like a household income source and the reservoirs are like a huge savings account. For the last 20 years, the household’s income has declined and the residents of the house have been living off their savings. Yet some house residents don’t realize they have been slowly draining their savings account.” After Margarita finished telling us like it is, she apologized and wished she could give us some fast fix. Carol Clary, water activist and resident of San Antonio reported, “The reaction in the community to the workshop was total shock about the coming scarcity.” At this moment in time no one really knows what is going to turn this around locally, but waiting for Mexico to build a number of saltwater desal plants or being  “hopeful” that it rains is looking foolish in the face of the reality of the present situation.

A recent report in the New York Times announces a “formal declaration” of the water crisis…as hundreds of thousands more people have moved to the regions. After years of signs, finally a declaration! With groundwater rapidly depleting, California has no contingency plan for a persistent drought and it would seem Baja California doesn’t either.

Since there has been an unprecedented mistrust of the news media of late, some people use the words “conspiracy” or “fake news” for anything that makes them nervous or they disagree with. Facts are facts and how people process the facts is the real issue. In our case here in Baja, one only needs to look with their own eyes as levels in the reservoirs dropping or talk to the local farmers whose water pumps are not deep enough this year to reach the vanishing aquifers. Famiglietti went on to report that “parts of California have already depleted their primary reserves of groundwater and are now drilling deeper – tapping into prehistoric reserves that cannot be readily replaced. As these prehistoric aquifers are mined, they suffer irreversible structural damage.” Vance Kennedy, a retired research hydrologist for the Central Valley clearly states in a Mother Jones interview, “What I see going on is a future disaster…you are removing water that’s been there a long, long time. We are mining water that cannot be readily replaced.” 

 Man has never had much of a consideration for the Earth from which they extract their resources. Humanity learns the hard way about their planet that sustains them. In addressing Baja’s water allotment from the Colorado River, California is setting the precedence for cutting water to agriculture. Living in Baja we need to keep watch on what is happening north of us, because whatever happens up there will come down the pipeline to us, euphemistically speaking. It is unlikely we will hear anything about what is happening in Baja unless we do our research.  We don’t have easy access to local information from authorities as to what they are doing or not doing.  Margareta clearly spelled out that the local offices “are not talking to one another and the right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing.” All along the coast south of Rosarito there are 11 new condo developments underway and Primo Tapia has two massive housing projects; one is clearing a whole mountain above Primo Tapia and another is actually attempting to build on sand dunes south of town. If we are questioning, we have to wonder where the water is coming from to provide these developers’ needs for water to build the cement and concrete blocks constructions. More importantly where is the sustainable water flow to the households once built? Nevertheless, development continues “as if” there will be water for thousands of new homes in the foreseeable future. Baja California is a passive player in how water will be allocated from the Colorado’s complicated system of delivery. At this time, if it gets rough, it appears that we are holding out our cups expecting to have our kind neighbors to the north share. Historically the United States does not have a good track record keeping its treaty agreements with its own Native Americans.  Should our spigots run dry, it is questionable that our 1944 Treaty with them is much of a safeguard. 

Take the Tour! Our Water’s Impressive 87-mile journey to our homes  

www.cea.gob.mx/arct.html

For Updated Water information and Group Presentation

Margarita Diaz Directora Proyecto Fronterizo

margarita@pfea.org

Editors Note: Martina is a freelance writer, journalist and author of Dust in My Sandals, Tales from a Baja Traveler. See our ad and order today!

Terra Peninsular: The Way of the Guardian

BY MARTINA DOBESH

A hawk flies from the Earth to the Moon! Yes, Really! In its ten to fifteen year lifespan the 

Red-tail Hawk will fly 238,855 miles, the distance from here to the Moon. How do we know that? As the saying goes it takes a village to create a better future. We tend to have an idea of what comprises a village or community, seeing it limited to family and neighbors. Today I’m meeting Mirna Borr to understand why it is actually important to know about the hawk and be amazed by the very idea of these airborne creatures as part of our village too. This interview with the Community Outreach Officer from Terra Peninsular will broaden our ideas about how we are interconnected to everything we encounter as we travel the wonder of Baja California.

Terra Peninsular is a non-profit organization in Ensenada committed to conserving the natural beauty of Baja California since 2001. It has been faithfully led by Executive Director, Cesar Guerrero. The volunteers are vision-holders who work tirelessly to educate communities in the importance of protecting and managing the natural resources. The non-profit group focuses their passion on sustainability and compatibility with the ecological system that has been in perfect balance since the peninsula fractured off from mainland Mexico and rose from the sea millions of years ago. With the growing human population it is important to understand why we need to care.

Mirna Borr, Community Outreach Officer at Terra Peninsular

I wave to Mirna across the shaded patio. She is a beautiful woman with thick dark hair and eyes that hold a vision of hope. We order our espresso and cappuccino, catching up since we last saw one another. I wanted to hear of her latest travels to San Quintin where much of the conservation focus is at this time. I asked her to explain why it is important for us to know how far the Red-tail Hawk flies in a lifetime. “It’s a long story,” she said. “When I started working with Terra Peninsular in my first year I was sent to Alaska to learn how to organize for our Annual Bird Festival here. It was there I learned about how that community was very connected and cared about the richness of their land. I saw that in San Quintin people don’t have an idea about the greatness of the land. It was in Alaska that I heard the story about the Red-tail Hawk. It was very shocking to me to realize that the birds I was seeing here in Alaska migrated to San Quintin, and I had actually followed them in my travels. I learned so much how to engage people and how to work with the community to connect them with the land and the birds. When I returned, I began to plan the 4th edition of our bird festival in San Quintin.” Mirna was clearly excited about her work, “I saw that the local people here had no interest in birds. They didn’t understand how important it is to learn about the habitat and how to protect it. The plants are part of this interconnection and without them the birds and many other rare species would not survive. It is so important to understand this.” Mirna rushes on to explain how their outreach program is working. “We have designed hiking trails so we do not trample the plants. We point out this red flower and say that it is special to the hummingbird that flies all the way from San Quintin to Alaska!” She grins and says, “They are amazed and exclaim, really?! She goes on to say that there are different kinds of hiking trails to explore the volcano area as well as the wetlands. It is deeply gratifying for all the members of Terra to see the changes in the community getting more involved.”

Mirna shares a perfect example of the power of understanding nature and its far reaching effects, “A mother shared her story with me. She noticed that her boys chased the birds, throwing rocks at them to watch them fly, and at times successfully hitting them. The family came to one of the Bird Festivals and was told how to watch and identify the birds.  Eight your old Santiago won the prize for his Bird Watching Marathon success. The prize was a pair of binoculars and a bird guide. Today he leads other children out for bird watching.” She goes on to say, “The women of the community can now recognize the birds by name and are excited to report seeing the especially rare ones.” Mirna points out, “People now understand that the special plants in the wetlands promote a healthy environment in which the birds flourish, sustain other animals, insect life while promoting clean air that is in perfect balance, if not interfered with.” Mirna expresses wonder, “We have created a whole new thing! We have a boom of recreational visitors to the area for hiking, kayaking, and surfing. The people have found this wonderful protected area. This is changing the attitude in the town, because it is bringing more visitors who go to the restaurants and more eating places are opening. The town is now participating in guiding people to treat the environment with care and being responsible.” Amused she continues, “It’s great and the guides are asking about how they can get their certification, because their clients want to know about the ecology and the names of the birds. Now we are starting workshops to educate the local guides.” 

I was curious about how Mirna found her way into this unique work. She has lived in Ensenada her whole life and was attracted to an education in research and mass communication in documentaries. This was well before anyone was interested in environmental sustainability. “I was so fortunate to have Professor Anna Sanchez, an amazing woman, and together we planned projects for public knowledge.” After graduation, Mirna’s first project was with the fisherman of LA Bay. I mentioned it must not have been an easy task to try and change the old fishing habits. Each job after graduation was a step towards her vision that led to the opportunities with Terra. I said, “So you are planning a trip back to Alaska? Do you feel like one of the migrating birds?” She exclaimed, “Yes, yes! I feel I am in the first step of my life’s journey and it is important that I acknowledge this, because just two years ago, I felt I had to go back to school and learn all the science to fully understand. But then I realized people don’t need to know all that. They don’t need the scientific name of the plants; they just need to know that the red color of a flower is important to the hummingbird and that hawks can fly to the moon.”

Near the end of our visit Mirna wanted to speak about Terra Peninsular, “Claudia is my boss and partner in crime, she is an amazing person and we are a great team. We gather all these ideas and have created art shows displaying the painting of the bird life. It makes me feel very connected.” Pride is heard in her voice, “The people of Terra Peninsular have the same passion that I have, and it is amazing for me to experience the trust we have for one another. This is not like a normal organization. It has a powerful force working with a lot of love, inspiration and hope which promises to keep the beauty of the reserve for future generations. It is very human.” As I watched her walk away, I knew that she was one of the Mexican young people who are the future of their country.

For more information you can go on line to Terra’s Mediterranews Magazine published every two months about their ongoing work. In part it will help the traveler begin to investigate this rich resource as a destination. There are two areas that are now federally certified for visitation. Punta Mazo and Monte Ceniza Reserves are at this time destinations for kayaking, surfing, hiking to the volcanoes in the 130,000 acres of reserve. Monte Ceniza has cabins for rent. Not to be missed is a virtual tour on YouTube. Wetlands Notas de campo (Field notes) Espisode #1 and #2, and Youtube.com/c/TerraPeninsular/videos. The photography is spectacular of this unique paradise. For reservations, turismo@terrapeninsular.org 

Around the world the wetlands are being reduced as they face threats of pollution, artificial filling for buildings and industrial waste. All this is loss of habitat which brings instability for all creatures including us, because we are all interconnected. Being informed is the turning point, like Santiago who no longer throws rocks at the birds, but now leads children to appreciate them, we can become a Guardian and Terra Peninsular can show the way.

Editor’s Note:

This was first printed in the Baja Bound.com March, 2022 bulletin where readers will find Martina’s column, The Baja StoryTeller and many other Baja writers sharing their experiences. See Martina’s book, Dust in My Sandals, Tales from a Baja Traveler, and an easy way to order her found in her ad in this edtion.

Save the Bees!

It’s spring in Baja California and the bees are loving the wild flowers and are happy in our gardens. We seldom pay attention to them, unless we get buzzed or one swoops in to join us for lunch. Rarely do we consider how important they are to our way of life. They go about their work in honey production, but as they do this they are also a major contributor to our healthy food systems. Without them the planet’s ecosystems would be dramatically altered.

We humans tend to care about things when we understand them. To appreciate bees more, a few fun facts are helpful. Did you know that the reason bees are so noisy is because they beat their wings 11,400 times in one minute! Honey bees love to dance and their moves are the way they communicate. Next time we put honey in our cereal we can thank the whole hive of bees for flying over 55,000 miles to make a 16 ounce jar for us. And to cover that kind of mileage they fly at 20 miles an hour. To keep us all in honey the queen has to lay 2,000 eggs per day.

Science is telling us that there is a noticeable and steady decline in the bee population. Both scientists and beekeepers believe there are a combination of factors which are mostly created by man; the loss of habitat and increased usage of pesticides are but a couple listed. Most recently, there have been studies about the effects of cell phone signals. The question that is being kicked around is that the phone signals whizzing around in space disorientates the flight of bees, causing confusion and low honey production. Research on behalf of the bees is not well funded, but there is enough evidence for the fact that it is harmful to humans. It is one simple step to suggest that the invisible signal disrupts the bees’ sensitivities. One study on humans stated, “EMF disrupts the chemical structures of tissue since a high degree of electromagnetic energy absorption can change the electric current in the body.”

National Library of Medicine  reports that the intensity of electromagnetic radiation in human environment is increasing and currently reaches astronomical levels that had never before been experienced on our planet. EMF impacts living organisms by direct tissue penetration. It isn’t a stretch to think the EMF symptoms for human such as disrupted sleep, headache, fatigue, lack of concentration and dizziness could make a hapless little bee fly in circles.

Is there a way to support the health and well being of ourselves and the bees? Some of the current thinking is to “Go Wild” and let your lawn grow without mowing. Bees love flowering weeds and grasses. Let some of the native plants thrive around your home is a good source of necture. Bees need water too; think about creating a bee pond in a shallow pan with pebbles, no need to clean it as bees love dirty water too. Support your local organic farmer. And it should go without saying, stop using toxic sprays. One of the most brilliant new ideas I am hearing is happening right here in Baja California.

Reagan White, a student from Escuela de Comunicación Transcultural  in Tijuana, contacted me. The school offers classes meant to look at how to build a business in a foreign country that can help people. He was looking for information for his school project using bees, honey and sustainable living, “We have a business project at our school, where we need to look for business opportunities in Tijuana. My teammates and I are researching bee-keeping for honey production and pollination of farms in Baja.” I suggested several names of people in Ensenada who were well versed in caring for the bee population. Several weeks later Reagan returned to report, “We are through our data-gathering phase of our project and have found the beekeeping community in Baja to be extremely welcoming and kind to us in this school project. We’re currently putting together a PowerPoint presentation for our panel of judges and would like to send that information over to you once it is completed.” I was thrilled with the idea of writing the story.

When the PowerPoint arrived, it was impressive and professionally done. Reagan and the team, Josiah, Elisabeth, Katie, Jacob, and Ruth had laid out clearly where the “gap in the honey market” was to be found. The point was to bring the raw unfiltered honey from the Baja beekeepers and to provide a more affordable and sustainable raw unfiltered honey to the higher purchasing markets of San Diego. In that city there is a high demand for raw unfiltered honey. This then creates jobs, benefits the farmers with higher crop yield due to the natural pollinators like bees with the added benefit that it helps the dwindling bee population. Since beekeeping is already aligned with Mexico’s direction there would be no issues of implementation. This is a win win for people, bees and the planet.

The students developed a three phase marketing plan based on a profit margin that has a “lean start up cost” because it is helpful to the farmers is a possibility of free or low rent. There is naturally lower labor and material cost, and the government has provided beekeeping subsidies.  The overall good news about this is there is a “high price point and consistent demand.” Their figures showed that by the fifth year there would be no need for further outside capital, thanks to nature’s amazing bees.

This business model is the wave of the future. It is a must that intelligent ideas include sustainability, health and wellbeing for humanity, the planet, and all its creatures.

With a delightful Mexican play on words, the English word honey is pronounced Hunnie in Spanish. They named the new product, Hey Hunnie!

BeeKeepers in Ensenada

Amado Abejas

52.646-127-7256

Dayan Amanda Moran Lugo

646-151-9110

A Bee Rescue Chat group

Roberto 646-141-6859

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