Last updateSat, 07 Jun 2014 10am

Governors sign new pact, representing brighter scenario for Lake Chapala’s future

Jalisco Governor Jorge Aristoteles Sandoval Díaz and Eruviel Ávila Villegas, his counterpart from the Estado de México, came together this week to ink a new pact that sets out clear terms for effective water source management in the Lerma-Chapala watershed, solidifying a pathway to protect and preserve Lake Chapala.

Drawn from a presidential decree enacted in mid-April, the agreement is a legal instrument that obligates five state governments to adhere to specific regulations guaranteeing more equitable allocation of limited surface water resources among all of the Lerma-Chapala basin’s stakeholders. And it comes with the bonus of the groundwork for setting up an initial fund of 800 million pesos from state and federal coffers to be invested in infrastructure projects to prevent and correct water pollution and to install efficient irrigation systems as a replacement for antiquated and wasteful agricultural practices.

The governors of Querétaro, Guanajuato and Michoacan had already put their signatures on the accord before Sandoval and Ávila officially sealed the deal at the 12th session of the Lerma-Chapala Basin Council held in Toluca on Tuesday, June 3, with National Water Commission (Conagua) director David Korenfeld Federman presiding.

Korenfeld hailed the new accord, qualifying it as a measure that assures concrete actions to counteract the region’s environmental deterioration and meet arising challenges. It sets out definitive terms that will transcend future changes in government administration.

Sandoval labeled the achievement of getting all five governors on board as “proof of the goodwill and commitment to overcome the watershed’s poor condition,” setting a national model for conciliating actions that favor integral management of water resources. He made a point to stress that Lake Chapala will soon reap benefits that will reverse its current water quantity and quality problems. His optimism is shared by Chapala Mayor Joaquín Huerta who traveled to Toluca to witness the council session.

Governor Avila was equally upbeat, expressing high hopes that prompt actions will help restore and breathe new life into the severely polluted Lerma River and its natural surroundings.

The Lerma-Chapala Basin stands out as one of Mexico’s most important watersheds, spanning 127 municipalities in five states, with a total population of more than 11 million people. It is a hub of economic activity that generates more than 11 percent of the Gross Domestic Product. Its backbone is the Lerma River, Mexico’s second longest, running a 750-kilometer course that originates from the lagoons near Almoloya de Río, Estado de México and empties into Lake Chapala at the boundary between Jalisco in Michoacan.

The region’s natural resources have been severely compromised the over the past century due to pressures of population growth, human activity, and rapid expanse of agriculture and industry.

Since 1989, the federal government has addressed rising environmental and water management problems through an evolving series of interstate coordination agreements and the ground-breaking foundation of the basin council as a forum to establish policies and resolve stakeholder conflicts. The latest pact derives from a new regulatory code that puts real legal teeth into previous terms of voluntary compliance that have been subject to the whims of politicians and special interest groups. With serious budget considerations now taken into account, there are some real prospects that visionary ideals could turn into high impact actions.