What’s The Deal With The Water Situation?

We chat with the general director and communication director of Oomsapas

Cabo San Lucas is a city that is basically all desert and has no major commercial wells, reservoirs or lakes to supply water to its residents. It has some small wells that are used to fill water trucks for home delivery, but that’s about it. The first desalination plant was built in 2007, but the population has already outgrown the plant’s maximum capacity, not that it ever worked to promised capacity. And Cabo keeps getting bigger and bigger without first making sure there’s enough water for new construction and new residents.

We asked Rene Nunez, the general director of Oomsapas, the water and sewage department here in Los Cabos, what the future holds for our water supply. Nunez is also a former mayor or Los Cabos.

Q. Will water rates go up in 2018?

A. No.

Q. When do you think Cabo will be trouble free as far as water is concerned?

A. Approximately three to four years.

Q. Why three to four years?

A. Because we are going to start building a new desalination plant in Cabo, which will take three to four years to build.

Q. Who is going to build and operate the new plant? I ask because the first desalination plant, which was built in 2007, has had many problems.

A. Yes, the plant has had many problems, but those problems have been solved. We will not be using the Spanish company that operates the original desalination plant. We are now in the process of taking bids from five other companies, which are located throughout the world.

Construction time will be three to four years, which is the time given by the federal government to build the plant. However, the plant is scheduled to be operating in three years. The plant will be operated by the winning bidder, but will be built by a combination of three Mexican construction companies.

Q. Where will the new desalination plant be built?

A. It will be build right next to the first desalination plant, which is located by Diamante Resort on the Pacific side. A third desalination plant is scheduled to be built in five years, and by 2040 we are going to have 11 desalination plants in Cabo.

Q. How many people was the desalination plant built to serv?

A. 80,000 people. The desalination plant supplies the Mesa Colorado barrio, the Los Cangrejos barrio, and the 4 de Marzo neighborhood. Part of the water shortage problem is that Cabo is building homes and businesses at an incredible pace, but won’t receive any increase in water from Oomsapas until the new desalination plant is completed in three years.

Q. Where else does Cabo get its water?

A. The desalination plant supplies 30% of Cabo’s water, the rest comes from San Jose. San Jose has 15 big wells that pump water 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The water is sent through a pipe system that runs between Santa Anita and Cabo. (Writer’s note: According to Nunez and Vladimir Torres, the Oomsapas communications director, Cabo has one well, which is plagued by problems. They did not divulge what the problems are).

Oomsapas has been working on and off with Pedregal to buy excess water from the Gringo housing tract’s desalination plant to supply downtown Cabo. The company that built the Pedregal desal plant is Global H2O, and that plant has never had a problem.

Q. What are the biggest problems Oomsapas is facing?

A. That the people of Los Cabos are very uneducated on the conservation of water and many do not even know where the water comes from. We need to teach people how to conserve water. BCS is the driest state in Mexico, but also has the fastest growth in Mexico. The first desalination plant produces 200 liters of water per second. The new desalination plant will produce 250 liters of water per second. But the new desalination plant being built in Rosarito, in Baja California Norte, will produce 4,300 liters of water per second. (They hope to sell water to San Diego).

The other problem is the cost of running the desalination plants. The electric bill alone is more than $21,000 USD per month for the first desalination plant.

Q. Does San Jose have the same water shortage problems as Cabo?

A. No. San Jose has 15 wells pumping 24 hours a day and has a giant reservoir which is about 6,500 feet long, 650 feet wide and 260 meters deep; it is called the Vista Hermosa dam. It collects rain water coming out of the mountains and as of now it is almost at full capacity. They can pump out of the estuary.

(That fresh water estuary is why San Jose was founded back in the 1700’s and is the largest body of fresh water in southern Baja. The water comes down from the hills behind us, where it rains frequently.

So, bottom line, if we just built a better system of pipes between the two towns, people in Cabo would not be getting fresh water to their taps only a few times a week.)  

Q. Can you tell me how to calculate or read our water bill and how do we know if we are paying the right amount?

A. Our water bills are not standard. They vary depending on location, but the rates are the same for all those areas, which are divided into four tiers.

On your bill you should see the word “consumo.” The number in that box will tell you how many cubic meters you have consumed.

Category 1 is domestic or barrio area, 0-5 cubic meters of water is $24.12 pesos (about $1.25 USD).

Category 2 is for general residences, 0-5 cubic meters of water is $92.00 pesos ($4.80 USD).

Category 3 is commercial zones, stores, offices, etc., 0-5 cubic meters is $95.00 pesos ($5 USD).

Category 4 is industry and hotels, 0-5 cubic meters is $117.51 pesos (about $6 USD).