If the city of Guaymas were a normal city in Mexico then they would actually administrate the municipal water source themselves; Let us not forget that San Carlos is in the municipality of Guaymas. Most cities in Mexico do the water themselves without contracting out that service to a second party. Guaymas lets the state of Sonora take care of the water but is allowed to set the price for water and the good news is that Otto Clausen the soon to be ex mayor of Guaymas did not raise the water bills this year in 2015 for Guaymas/San Carlos. Now here is the bad news. San Carlos officially pays 254 pesos a month for up to 30 cubic meters of water. A cubic meter of water is 1000 liters. Officially this is approximately 5 times what residents in Guaymas might pay for water.
Unofficially many residents in San Carlos recently have had to pay up to 20 or 30 times more for water than Guaymas.
Is San Carlos getting 20 times the service for all this extra money? If it were a simple question of the rich paying for the poor then myself as well as many others who live here in San Carlos and pay these exorbitant fees for water are probably actually OK with that. The problem is when you look around San Carlos and actually open your eyes and then start to think about what is really going on you start to realize as is stated in the video report above by Juan Carlos Gonzalez.
“Estes Senores nos estan tomando el pelo” or loosely translated in English “These guys are taking us for a ride”
“Estes Senores” are the water company but it is also the City of Guaymas. No matter how we slice it up the administrator, who in this case last year was named Marco Antonio Ahumada Gutierrez, of the La Comission Estatal de Aqua or CEA can only do what he does if he has authorization from the city of Guaymas.
How many people have been overcharged for water here in San Carlos? That number must run in the hundreds if not thousands and considering the lack of transparency that exists here we may never know the real numbers. One of the first cases I was informed of when I send out a survey last November was a huge overcharge out at Puesta del Sol. The Puesta del Sol development is the last neighbor hood of San Carlos on the water service line, just before the fishing village of La Manga. In August of last summer one resident received a bill for 99 cubic meters of water for that same month. That is around 26,000 gallons of water. CEA told the home owner he had a leak. You don’t have to be an engineer, although this person was, to know that if you had leaked 26,000 gallons of water under your house that your beautiful beach front home most likely wouldn’t still be standing and would have long ago washed away into the jewel that is the Sea of Cortes. The owner found no recourse what so ever and decided to pay his 250 dollar water bill for that month.
My father in law in Guaymas pays around 75 pesos (for up to 30 cubic meters of water) each month thus a 250 dollar/3250 pesos water bill is approximately 40 times what a Guaymas water user might pay for one month of service at the rate of consumption of 30 cubic meters of water. Which is realistically what the Puesta del Sol home owner actually used.
This owner in particular found out the real reason his water bill was so high. He started by calling up the company that manufactured his water meter. One of the representatives for the company informed him that the only real explanation for such a huge overcharge was that air in the water line causes the meter to spin like nobodies business! Puesta del Sol is last on the line so when water service is down and then later resumes a lot of air gets pumped to the end of the line. CEA could have informed this client that same very fact as well if they had wanted to. They did not. My father in law in Guaymas has had the exact same problem but rather than install an air purging valve right before his water meter what he does is he simply turns off the water when he is out of town or out of the house. Any air that gets pumped through the lines eventually is dissipated to other meters or pushed out where ever there are leaks in the system. There are many many leaks in the system.
The leaks and the infrastructure are the real story here. I wouldn’t have a real problem with San Carlos paying the extra money if Guaymas would reinvest some of that money into our 40 year old failing infrastructure. Here is where the real story lies. The water company always states this when asked about the water bills.
They say that San Carlos is in a “zona turistica” and hence pays more money for water than Guaymas.
Of course this is a ridiculous argument that has no basis in fact. The Sonoran constitution does not define how a “zona turistica” within the same municipality should be paying up to 40 times more for their water. Lets face it some spots in the Ranchitos are not terribly “turistica” and if you look at the board walk in Guaymas how can you not call that a “zona turistica”. What the Sonoran constitucion does say how ever is that if you can pay more for water you can be charged more if you are able to afford it. So there does seem to be some justification for San Carlos paying more for water than Guaymas.
Lets assume that the rich in San Carlos should be paying the water bills for the poor in Guaymas and we are ok with that. What I am certainly not ok with is how much water is allowed to leak into the desert because CEA claims it does not have the money to fix our ailing infrastructure.
This argument is as hollow as the water pipes in Los Ranchitos during semana santa.
The question really is how can Guaymas and CEA not afford to fix the leaks? We can live without electricity but try living without water and see far that gets you. And that is clearly what Guaymas and CEA don’t get. We could probably find out via the new Freedom of information laws that now exist in Mexico how much water Guaymas and CEA are loosing into the desert every year in leaks. I have little doubt that they know these numbers. Trying to pry that information out of them would take a long time.
What is on the horizon for water in San Carlos and Mexico? I was just contacted by a person on the Caracol and he is telling a pretty chilling story which we will hope to put out in the next video. This man has received a 1.5 million pesos water bill. Now that is not even really the story although that is the biggest bill to date that I have been informed of. The big story here is that CEA may have sold his debt to a collection agency that is now claiming it will put a lien on his house until he pays a water bill that may realistically be worth more than what he paid for his lot on the Caracol. I seriously doubt any of this is legal but it is clearly a new scare tactic that Guaymas wants to use to force residents to pay unjustified and most likely fraudulent bills.
There are two possible solutions to all this. One is the famous “Amparo” or court injunction that saves people from persecution by the government.
The other is a better way out. San Carlos becomes it’s own municipality and administrates its own water.
The water issue may be the greatest reason of them all for starting the process of breaking away from Guaymas once and for all. There are brand new laws being debated in the congress of Mexico that want to see the privatization of the water supply. Human rights organizations are protesting that these new laws are unconstitutional. If the water were to be privatized then consumers could really be in trouble. Considering the lack of transparency and lack of rule of law in this country if we think the city is taking advantage of us here in San Carlos and Guaymas just imagine how a private company who administers water could. In America there is a trend toward privatization that has grown in recent years. The problem in Mexico is the judicial system here is almost completely dysfunctional. Currently here it will be far easier to fight the government over the water issues than it would be to fight a private for profit corporation. At least the government can be changed via elections and an Amparo could stop the state immediately from over charging us. Just imagine what kind of luck you might have trying to sue a ruthless cooperate executive in this dysfunctional judicial system who is ruling over the water supply of San Carlos!
Got an interesting story to tell for part 2 in our series? Send me an email firstname.lastname@example.org or fill out the contact form below or please leave a comment directly below the contact form. It is our hope that CEA will eventually have to allow us an interview.