Category Archives: Geek/GangGreen/Tec

Tijuana to Wine Valley Aqueduct


elvigia

With a private sector investment of 1,300 million pesos over a period of twenty months, a 110-kilometer aqueduct will be built that will bring treated water from the southeast of Tijuana to the Guadalupe Valley.

The governor Francisco Vega de Lamadrid subscribed yesterday the agreement that officializes the beginning of the work that will be in charge of the company Odis Adversa, of Israeli origin.

As explained by the representative of that company Fabián Yáñez Carbajo, the investment will go from 1,100 to 1,300 million pesos and in its first stage will be sanitized and will drive 300 liters per second to Valle de Guadalupe and in the final phase – by June 2020-, a thousand liters per second will reach this region.

He reported that the first water deliveries are projected to be carried out by October of next year.

He also assured that these treated waters in terms of cost and quality will have better conditions than those that are currently extracted from the Guadalupe Valley aquifers.

Historical fact
Vega de Lamadrid highlighted in his message the importance of the aqueduct, since not only will it be possible to guarantee the survival of the aforementioned wine region, but to increase its production and growth.

The effort of three generations who managed to convert the Valley of Guadalupe not only into a successful wine region, but also into one of the most important tourist areas of Baja California and Mexico, is being preserved.

Likewise, he said, the emissions of treated water that were made in the coasts of Tijuana will be reduced and the aquifer mantles of the Guadalupe Valley will be protected by reducing the extractions of the subsoil.

He acknowledged that making the reuse of treated water a reality was difficult, since it was a project that had been working for fourteen years.

The governor added that parallel to these efforts for the supply of water, has also been promoted to improve the legal framework for the development of the wine sector, particularly in the production and marketing of Baja California wine.

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BP Fuel Storage in Ensenada


SDUT

Energy giant BP signed a long-term contract with IEnova, Sempra Energy’s subsidiary in Mexico, to utilize the remaining 50 percent of storage capacity at a $130 million liquid fuels marine terminal to be built near Ensenada.

Under the agreement announced Tuesday afternoon, BP will have storage capacity of 500,000 barrels of liquid fuels to supply BP’s growing number of gas stations in northern Mexico.

Earlier this year, IEnova reached a long-term agreement with a local unit of Chevron to utilize about half the terminal’s capacity. Like BP, Chevron has moved into Mexico’s fuel sector in recent years, supplying service stations and other commercial and industrial customers.

Called Baja Refinados, the project is expected to be completed in the second half of 2020. The terminal will be constructed at IEnova’s La Jovita Energy Center, which includes the company’s Energía Costa Azul liquefied natural gas facility.

“The Baja Refinados project is an important part of our growth strategy,” Carlos Ruiz Sacristán, chairman and CEO of the Sempra North American Infrastructure group and chairman of IEnova, said in a statement. “This new terminal will increase Baja California’s energy reliability and will foster competitive prices for gasoline and other refined products on the West Coast of Mexico.”

BP will have the option to acquire up to 25 percent of the terminal’s equity after commercial operations begin.

IEnova is responsible for developing the terminal, including its financing, construction, permitting as well as maintenance and operations.

Sempra management considers IEnova a crucial piece of its North American portfolio and its subsidiary has become an aggressive player in the expanding Mexican energy sector.

IEnova has invested more than $7.6 billion in U.S. dollars in assets and projects and boasts of being the first energy infrastructure company listed on the Mexican stock exchange.

In addition to liquid fuels, IEnova develops and operates investments in solar, wind and natural gas projects across Mexico.

El Niño Rains Coming to Ensenada


afntijuana

ENSENADA BC AUGUST 26, 2018 (AFN) .- The Municipal Civil Protection Unit of the city council announced that there are possibilities of heavy rains in the region due to the probable presence of the phenomenon known as “El Niño”.

The head of Civil Protection, Jaime Nieto de Maria y Campos, explained that according to the information of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA, for its acronym in English) and the National Meteorological System there is a high probability of heavy rains for autumn and winter in Ensenada.

“The next rainy season could be the strongest and most anticipated in the region, because we have been monitoring the forecasts in a timely manner. These warn that the pluvial indexes will be above the average in a 20 to 40 percent, “said the official.

Jaime Nieto mentioned that there is a 60 percent probability of presence of “El Niño” in the fall of the year 2018 that covers September to November, increasing to 70 percent during the winter of 2018 and part of 2019.

He said that it is important that the population remains alert to avoid ravages by rainfall, while the municipal authority will be responsible for cleaning rainwater, canyons and ravines, among other measures.

Therefore recommended to prevent at home by reviewing the roofs of homes and thus avoid the transfer of water within them, as well as safeguarding personal documents and other belongings, mainly those residing in high-risk areas.

 

70 Earthquakes Rattle Ring of Fire


Ring of Fire MAP: Earthquake BLITZ hits Pacific triangulation points – MEGAQUAKE fears

THE PACIFIC Ring of Fire has been hit by a series of strong earthquakes with a triangle area formed by Oregon, Vanuatu and Venezuela rocked in the past 24 hours.

More than 70 earthquakes have rattled the Ring of Fire, a huge swathe of geologically active tectonic plates stretching from South America to Australia via the western United States and East Asia, in the past three days.

First Venezuela was struck by a major 7.3 earthquake last night, with citizens across northern South America and parts of the Caribbean reporting strong shaking.

In Venezuela’s picturesque palm tree-dotted northern coast, residents said the long quake was terrifying.

The tremor made residents nauseous, caused lamps to swing and led people to dash into the streets.

The quake was also felt in the capital of Caracas, where residents rushed out of office buildings, as well as in nearby island nations like Trinidad and Tobago, and St. Lucia, to the west and north.

Residents in Trinidad and Tobago shared video online showing some damage to buildings.

Then Vanuatu, located in the western Pacific Ocean was hit by a strong 6.7 magnitude earthquake.

The shallow quake’s epicentre was located just a few miles off the northern tip of sparsely populated Ambrym.

Pacific Ring of Fire earthquake

Pacific Ring of Fire: Venezuela, Vanuatu and Oregon have all been hit by strong earthquakes (Image: BING)

Officials at Vanuatu’s National Disaster Management Office in Port Vila, roughly 120 miles south of the epicentre, had no initial reports of damage.

“We felt small shaking for 15 or 30 seconds but we’re all good here,” spokesman Presley Tari told Reuters by phone.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Hawaii said there was no tsunami threat from the quake and authorities in Australia and New Zealand also gave the all-clear.

A third earthquake then struck off the coast of Oregon, United States.

An offshore earthquake with a magnitude of 6.3 hit 188 miles west of Bandon, Oregon, the United States Geological Survey (USGS) said.

Pacific Ring of Fire earthquake

The Pacific Ring of Fire has been rattled by several strong earthquakes (Image: GETTY / REUTERS / BING)

The quake was recorded at a depth of about 10 km, according to the USGS website.

No immediate tsunami warning was posted.

And today Venezuela was again hit by a strong earthquake.

A 5.9 aftershock hit the north of the country this afternoon, sparking more panic in Venezuela.

Pacific Ring of Fire

The Pacific Ring of Fire is the most geologically active region in the world (Image: USGS)

Venezuela earthquake: Windows smash as shock felt in Trinidad

One citizen wrote on earthquake monitoring website EMSC-CSEM: “I was in the office and went straight under the table.”

Another said: “I was in a boat moored to a dock and felt the waves ripping the engine.”

It comes after dozens of other smaller earthquakes rattled the Ring of Fire, with more than 70 striking in the past three days.

It has increased fears for the ‘Big One’ earthquake in the western United States, or another megaquake elsewhere in one of the heavily populated Asian or South American cities on the Ring of Fire.

Pacific Ring of Fire

Pacific Ring of Fire: Venezuela was hit by a strong 6.9 earthquake last night (Image: REUTERS)

Richard Aster, Professor of Geophysics at Colorado State University, warned recently California is in an “earthquake drought” and overdue a 7.0 quake.

He said: “Although many Californians can recount experiencing an earthquake, most have never personally experienced a strong one.

“For major events, with magnitudes of seven or greater, California is actually in an earthquake drought.”

The Pacific Ring of Fire is the most geologically active region in the world.

More than 90 per cent of earthquakes occur here, as well as 22 or the 25 biggest volcanic eruptions in history.

Desalination Water Cost Unknown


Bajadock: Yes, translation is always fuzzy, but this is baffling.  880,000,000mnp = approx 45 million US Dollars to build the desal plant.  Now that it is completed, we don’t know how much the water will cost.  But, we’re not going to charge more for it.  ???

monitoreconomico

By Gerardo Sánchez Ensenada, Baja California, July 17.- Although it was officially opened a month ago, it is unknown how much it cost and what will be the rates for the seawater desalination plant, assured the director of the State Water Commission (CEA), Ricardo Cisneros Rodríguez. The state official could not explain precisely why the Development Bank of North America (Bandan) said that the plant cost 987 million pesos, and both the CEA and the National Water Commission, announced that the cost of that work was of 880 million pesos. Questioned about the discrepancies in these figures after participating as an exhibitor at the weekly meeting of the Enshower Group of Ensenada, Cisneros Rodriguez said: “It is a VAT issue, we handle an amount without that tax and the Bandan does, and also updated its costs with the mechanisms provided in the contract according to the consumer price indexes to update the amount, we have not done it, we are waiting for the financial closure, which is where the adjustment mechanisms are applied “. However, the figure publicly managed by the CEA and Conagua, if added VAT does not coincide with that reported by the bank, because the 880 million pesos with 16 percent of the Value Added Tax would add a total of one thousand 20 million pesos, that is, there would be a difference of 33 million pesos with that managed by the Development Bank of North America. Cisneros Rodríguez also did not accurately report the cost of the tariffs at which the desalinated water will be sold to the State Government and said that this will be defined until the financial review of the work is completed. However, he assured that no increase in water rates is contemplated for the industrial, commercial or domestic user of the city of Ensenada.

Frig Wars 3


by staff appliance repair editor, Maynard Maytag 

This is a real photo of my frig.  The view is of the coil that has frozen over because of a faulty fan not circulating air.  It is odd that more frost here actually creates a warm frig chamber, while the freezer section cools properly.

Had the same issue last summer and was fortunate to find a technician who knew how to fix it quickly.  That tech warned me that he was installing a used fan and that it would work for short term.  I should buy a new one asap was his advisory

This is the little guy(approx 4″ x 4″) that fits in the space just above the iced coil(see 3 black rubber pegs).  Ordered it last July.

Have been traveling a lot recently, but, noticed my frig temp warming slightly 2 weeks ago.  Upon return from my trip frig temp was all the way up to 48F.

Great news is that I had served my frig repair apprenticeship last summer.  Boiling water and a hair dryer are key tools for this fix.

Had to figger out a way to rig in the new fan as it did not come with the black rubber connectors.  Pipe cleaners, used for wine glass personal markers, are always a handy household tool and were perfect for attaching the little fan in its tight compartment.

Brimming with machismo I plugged the fan into its wiring socket and…hmmmm.  No hum, no whirling blade, nada!  After 90 minutes of work defrosting and my ez fix is not working?

After a few deep breaths, I plugged in the old fan.  Nada!  WTF?  Did I detach or crush a wire during my ice crushing?

Patience is an amazing thing.  It took the frig a couple of minutes to cycle and the whirring fan blades were a happy sight.

What a great excuse this was to clean my frig shelves and drawers.  But, it did ruin a hair dryer.

One of the most frustrating little details of my frig is reinstalling the two veg/fruit drawers.  What a mouse trap contraption to assemble.

Thrilled to see my interior thermometer read 45F after a few minutes and settling down to 40F after about a half hour.

 

Tijuana to Wine Valley Waste Water Aqueduct


Bajadock: We reported on this proposed aqueduct last week.  In that report, we also published an article from 2010 about getting the aqueduct out for bid “soon”.  BTW, what is it about Mexican journalism/culture that almost always prefers to publish a photo of the politicians discussing the project at the press conference over the actual project at hand? If a bomb explosion occurred at the San Ysidro border crossing, rather than a photo of the damage, they would have a photo of officials at a press conference.

I added(as I often do) the above map for those wondering what the deal is all about. Here is the photo attached to the waste water aqueduct article.  The boys have that “when do we get out of here?” look as Baja Governor Kiko speaks.

elvigia

The governor, Francisco Vega de Lamadrid, confirmed the construction of the aqueduct that will bring treated water from Tijuana to the Guadalupe Valley, which will triple the surface of vineyards and guarantee tourist activities in the most visited region of Baja California.

The state governor indicated that the work has an estimated cost of one thousand 500 million pesos, will be made with resources from the private initiative and has already begun the bidding process of the work.

He pointed out that to guarantee the clarity and legality of this project, the civil organization Transparencia Mexicana was invited to supervise the bidding and construction of the system that will bring the treated water from the La Morita plant from the city of Tijuana to Valle de Guadalupe.

This aqueduct, said Vega de Lamadrid, will have a capacity of up to 1,000 liters per second and the projected cost will be just over 10 pesos per cubic meter, a price that was already accepted by the winemakers who will use those waters.

The governor of Baja California said tentatively the work could be completed in 2019, and of the nearly three thousand hectares of vineyards that are currently had could exceed ten thousand hectares to be provided with this water resource.

He added that parallel to the construction of said aqueduct, the XXII Ayuntamiento de Ensenada works in the Sectoral Program of Ordenamiento del Valle de Guadalupe, which will allow for an orderly growth of urban growth and services in the region.

GUARANTEED QUALITY OF WATERS
Regarding the quality of the water that will be brought to the wine region, the Secretary of Agricultural Development of the State, Manuel Valladolid Seamanduras, indicated that the project and tender for the aqueduct was made with the aim of guaranteeing and even exceeding the highest quality standards in treated water.

According to a report from the State Public Services Commission of Tijuana, during the last three years, experimental vineyard cultivations were carried out using these waters.

These works were supervised by the winemaker Camilo Magoni, the State Water Commission, the Technological Institute of Tijuana and the Center for Research and Development in Electrochemistry of Conacyt.

The Cespet informed that the tests done on water, soils and grapes were satisfactory when they were met and were at levels above the technical standards established in the management of this type of water resource.

Baja California Drought Continues


monitoreconomico

Due to the persistence of dry weather in Baja California, the growth and emergence of extreme drought was observed according to the Conagua report as of March 31st.

It adds that Baja California presented its driest fifth quarter (January-March 2018) since 1941, that is to say in 77 years according to the Drought Monitor disseminated by the National Water Commission. Baja California showed a strong advance in the area affected by drought, the second largest since 2014. The affected area reaches 80.5% of the territory with 22% in the ranges of severe drought and extreme drought.

With respect to the same period of 2016, the difference is worrisome. According to a report from the Economic Studies Center of Baja California, the absence of rain and the announcement that this will be a very hot year puts the problem of water in the State back on the agenda. He recalled that just last February the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) confirmed that the years 2015, 2016 and 2017 have been the warmest ever recorded and that last year the average temperature on the Earth’s surface exceeded by 1.1ºC the temperature of the preindustrial.

Although 2016 remains at the top of the list of warmest years, 2017 is the first warmer without the El Niño effect. The intense episode of El Niño 2015/2016 contributed to record unprecedented temperatures in 2016. The global average temperature in 2017 was approximately 0.46 ° C higher than the long-term average of the period 1981-2010 (14.3 ° C), highlights WMO, adding that temperatures only account for a small part of history.

Parallel to the warm temperatures of 2017 extreme weather events occurred in many countries of the world. The United States had to face the most expensive year in terms of meteorological and climatic disasters, while in other countries slower economic development was observed, and even a setback, as a consequence of tropical cyclones, floods and droughts.

For this year, the global average temperature would be between 0.88ºC and 1.12ºC above pre-industrial conditions (average temperature for the period between 1850 and 1900), according to the National Meteorological Service of the United Kingdom (Met Office). . If this forecast is fulfilled, 2018 will be the fourth warmest year since 1850. In this context, Baja California must already work on actions to cushion the impact of this year, since important regions such as the Wine Route have already been affected for several years, concludes the CEEBC report.

Tijuana Waste Water to Wine Valley?


Roberto Ramírez de la Parra, Mexico’s top water official, at right, gets an update on projects in the Tijuana River watershed during a visit to Tijuana. (Sandra Dibble/San Diego Union-Tribune)

Bajadock: included a 2010 article on the same project below this week’s waste water plan.  The 2010 article ends with “a second project to use the rest of Tijuana’s treated wastewater” before the first one is financed and built.  But, this week’s article includes fingers, very determined fingers, pointing on a colored map.  Is that a compost pile behind the police tape?  Aha, here is another view from the “top water official” facebook page:

SDUT   10 Apr 2018

A plan to pipe treated wastewater from Tijuana to the Guadalupe Valley is being championed by authorities who say the project not only would support the state’s wine-growing region, but also solve another problem: reducing the flow to the overburdened San Antonio de los Buenos coastal sewage treatment plant.

The vision revolves around the treated effluent from Tijuana’s La Morita and Arturo Herrera plants that currently flows down the Tijuana River channel. “The idea is that we take the water that we are treating here in Tijuana and send it to the Guadalupe Valley,” said Roberto Ramírez de la Parra, Mexico’s top water official, during a visit to Tijuana last week.

State authorities have said a private company would build the aqueduct, but have not offered details. The project would help guarantee the water supply to the Guadalupe Valley, which produces close to 90 percent of Mexico’s wines.

Ramírez de la Parra, who heads Mexico’s National Water Commission, said the aqueduct project would eliminate discharges from the plants into the Tijuana River channel. The water runs downstream toward the U.S. border and picks up contaminants on the way. It then must be pumped toward the San Antonio de los Buenos treatment plant about six miles from the border.

The plan to send the water to the Guadalupe Valley has been gaining support in Mexico as part of a larger strategy aimed at reducing contaminated cross-border flows in the Tijuana River watershed. It would also decrease the San Antonio de los Buenos plant’s discharge into the Pacific Ocean, which environmentalists say is often polluted.

Ramírez de la Parra said authorities are also planning in the short-term some upgrades to the 31-year-old San Antonio de los Buenos plant. “We are going to start the rehabilitation right now,” said de la Parra. They are postponing a more costly plan to expand the plant’s capacity and build a new activated sludge water treatment facility.

Ramírez de la Parra said the idea is to “rehabilitate it, so that it functions well, but we won’t build a new facility, until we have a pipeline that would take the water to the Guadalupe Valley.”

*************************************************************************************************

SDUT Feb 2010

As they watch millions of gallons of treated Tijuana wastewater flow into the Pacific Ocean each day, Baja California authorities say they have a better idea: Why not pipe it to the Guadalupe Valley, Baja California’s winemaking region, where the water table has been falling even as the area has risen in international renown?

Gov. José Guadalupe Osuna Millán’s government is proposing a 46-mile aqueduct that would carry the treated water from eastern Tijuana to the vineyards and olive groves in the small agricultural valley north of Ensenada.

“If we wanted to use all the treated water in the city, we’d be hard-pressed to find places to put it, no matter how many green areas we had,” said Efraín Muñoz, head of the State Water Commission, Baja California’s water planning agency.

Miles from Tijuana’s crowded hillsides, winemakers in the picturesque Guadalupe Valley say they’re running out of water, and that is threatening the future of a region responsible for 90 percent of Mexico’s wine production.

The valley shares its wells with the city of Ensenada, and the growing demand for urban and agricultural uses has put unprecedented pressure on the aquifer.

The Guadalupe Valley would not be the first to use reclaimed water in its vineyards. Napa Valley has been using treated wastewater in some vineyards for at least a decade, said Jeff Tucker of the Napa Sanitation District.

Hugo D’Acosta, owner of the Casa de Piedra winery and a member of the Baja California Wine Growers Association, offers cautious endorsement for the pipeline proposal.

The reclaimed-water project could offer a solution, he said, “if and when it’s well-executed and meets the needs of the valley.”

D’Acosta and other vineyard owners have become increasingly wary of encroachment by housing developments and fear that without strict zoning regulations, the pipeline could encourage large-scale projects that destroy the valley’s vocation.

“I see it as feasible, but also very dangerous,” D’Acosta said of the proposed aqueduct.

This is not the first proposal aimed at using Tijuana’s wastewater. A U.S. company, Bajagua, for years proposed building a treatment plant in Mexico with $170 million in U.S. government funds, then selling up to 59 million gallons of reclaimed water a day. But the San Marcos company’s much-debated proposal failed in 2008 when the International Boundary and Water Commission opted to instead upgrade its existing San Ysidro treatment plant that treats 25 million gallons of Tijuana sewage a day.

Collecting and treating Tijuana’s sewage has been the subject of binational efforts for decades. The city’s spills and overflows risk contaminating San Diego County beaches and threaten the Tijuana River estuary, a federally protected wetland. Although dry-weather flows have largely been eliminated, cross-border sewage flows during wet weather continue to shut down South Bay beaches.

Last year, officials on both sides of the border celebrated when Tijuana’s state-operated utility, the CESPT, inaugurated the Arturo Herrera sewage treatment plant in eastern Tijuana.

The opening launched Tijuana’s first comprehensive wastewater-reuse program, and the inauguration of a pipeline carrying 470,000 gallons a day from the plant to nearby Morelos Park.

The CESPT is completing a second treatment plant nearby called La Morita, and is planning a third one, Cueros de Venado. The three plants would feed the Guadalupe Valley aqueduct up to 25 million gallons a day of wastewater treated to a secondary level, which is acceptable for irrigation purposes.

Muñoz, the Baja California water planner, said the Guadalupe Valley pipeline proposal has a good chance of becoming a reality, but it faces several hurdles.

Because the state government can’t afford the project’s $169 million price tag, it is turning to the private sector. The winning bidder would recover its investment by selling the water. But to keep water rates down, federal funds are also needed, Muñoz said.

The state hopes to put to the project out to bid this year and begin construction in 2011, Muñoz said.

Before reaching the Guadalupe Valley, some of the water would be diverted to the Valle de las Palmas outside Tijuana, where a satellite city is under construction. Additional amounts would be delivered to agricultural communities along the way, with the remainder stored at a reservoir planned at the valley’s northern end, Muñoz said.

The water would receive further treatment before being delivered to growers, allowing it to be used in spray and drip irrigation systems.

Even with the Guadalupe Valley pipeline in the planning stages, Muñoz is looking ahead to a second project to use the rest of Tijuana’s treated wastewater.

He envisions a coastline pipeline that would supply communities with irrigation water for their green spaces.

“It would be much cheaper than the drinking water we are now using,” Muñoz said.

Tijuana Sewage Spills


SDUT

There was not a cloud in sight on this winter morning as surfers rode the waves south of the U.S. border fence, off of Playas de Tijuana. Anna Lucía López Avedoy stood on the street above, focusing instead on the stream pouring from a storm drain, splashing down a small rocky cliff, trickling down the sand and finally into the Pacific Ocean.

“This is not rain water, this is not water that should be running through a storm drain,” said López, a former Tijuana lifeguard who teaches a class in ecology to tourism students at Tijuana’s largest public university, the Autonomous University of Baja California. “I think it’s time we highlight the situation.

While spills from Tijuana’s aging, underfunded and overloaded sewage collection and treatment system have prompted protests across the border in San Diego County, nearby Tijuana beaches also suffer contamination when lines break, pumps fail, and rainstorms sweep the region.

The issue has been flaring up again, despite hundreds of millions of dollars invested to build new treatment plants in Tijuana and connect more neighborhoods. Six miles down the coast from the border fence, the city’s largest sewage treatment plant, now three decades old, failing and stretched beyond capacity, has been long overdue for replacement. Across the city, collector pipes are in danger of collapse. A dozen developments on the coastline — and others that are inland — need to be connected to the public system.

“Tijuana is a complex city, and it has a sanitary system that has never kept pace with the increase in population,” said Roberto Espinosa, the longtime head of the Tijuana office of the Mexican section of the International Boundary and Water Commission, known as CILA.

The issue touches on topography, engineering, poverty, rapid population growth lack of planning, and lack of government transparency. It involves sewage collection and treatment, but also the control of sediment and trash that can clog canyons and storm drains. Many say it is a solvable problem but the solution depends on resources — and political will on both sides of the border to collaborate on a solution. A will that critics say has fallen short.

“Everybody’s in their corner, with their bit of information,” said Margarita Diaz, director of the Playas de Tijuana-based environmental group, Proyecto Fronterizo de Educacion Ambiental. “I think nobody has the ability to say, here it is, the complete picture.”

The continuing issue of cross-border contamination also lays bare the economic differences between United States and Mexico, and different systems for financing public infrastructure.

Mexican states and municipalities are heavily reliant on the federal government and “there are needs throughout Mexico so it’s difficult to get large amounts of money from Mexico to resolve the problem,” said Paul Ganster, a San Diego State University professor and head of the Good Neighbor Environmental Board.

With limited funds, Mexican authorities say they are moving forward, sometimes with U.S. assistance, on key infrastructure projects they say will go far to alleviate the problem of cross-border flows to San Diego: upgrades to a pump station that diverts dry-weather flows in the Tijuana River channel away from San Diego; replacing damaged sewage collector pipes, including a 2.7-mile stretch of a giant sewage conveyor pipe known as Colector Poniente; and acquiring new pumps and other equipment to respond faster when breaks occur.

“The commitment is that there are no spills of sewage-contaminated water in the Tijuana River watershed,” said Miguel Lemus, who recenty took leave from his job as director of CESPT , the acronym for the state water utility in Tijuana. “And to guarantee this, we are taking a number of actions.”

Water quality a touchy subject

“Es un tema escalabroso,” said López, as she drove down the Baja California’s coastal toll road south of Playas de Tijuana, stopping briefly at the murky, churning stream of discharge from the Punta Bandera water treatment plant. “It’s a thorny subject.”

How contaminated is the flow, and what is the effect on nearby beaches? It’s hard for a member of the public to know.

Tijuana’s municipal lifeguards, who oversee beaches south of the border fence, have been ordered not to publicly discuss the issue of beach contamination. Beach closures are extremely rare, and timely official results of water testing are not available.

Monitoring of ocean water quality does take place in Mexico but the results are often not publicly posted or delayed so as to be of little use to swimmers and surfers. The federal agency Cofepris, charged with monitoring the water quality of the country’s beaches, has not posted any results for Tijuana and Rosarito Beach since last November.

The CESPT monitors five sites on the Tijuana shoreline on a weekly basis, but it has yet to publish results for this month.

“There is no culture of public commitment as far as complying with the role of prevention,” said Adriana Alvarez, Andrade, a professor at the Autonomous University of Baja California who has studied coastal contamination. “Nobody wants to get in trouble. Many times, the policy is to hide the problem.”

Stepping into the void, the nonprofit Proyecto Fronterizo de Educacion Ambiental has been conducting its own regular monitoring of water quality at five points along the Tijuana shoreline since 2014, posting the results through the Swim Guide app.

Of 36 samples taken last year, one location stands out: the beach at Playa Blanca, located less than two miles south of the discharge stream of the San Antonio de los Buenos plant. More than half the samples at Playa Blanca showed bacterial levels that exceeded Mexico’s minimum federal standards.

Decades of problems

Tijuana’s sewage collection and treatment rate of about 90 percent is one of the highest in Mexico, and well above the national average of 50 percent, according to the U.S. EPA. With the aim of reducing contamination downstream in the United States, the agency has been collaborating with Mexico to improve wastewater collection and treatment in projects in Tijuana since 1990.

That same year, the U.S. and Mexico signed an agreement known as Minute 283, which included the provision that “the government of Mexico will assure that there are no discharges of untreated domestic or industrial wastewaters into waters of the Tijuana River that cross the international boundary…”

It has proven to be a daunting challenge.

Tijuana’s many canyons and hillsides drain toward the international border, and when it rains, the infrastructure can do little to to stem the large volumes of polluted runoff flowing down the river channel and into the United States. But even without rain, equipment failures or broken lines in Tijuana regularly lead to cross-border spills.

For residents of Imperial Beach, that has meant frequent beach closures. Last year, contamination from the Tijuana River led the San Diego County Department of Environmental Health to close the Tijuana Slough shoreline at the river’s mouth for 167 days. During the same period, it ordered closures up the coast of Imperial Beach for 64 days; the Silver Strand shoreline for 26 days, and the Coronado shoreline for 11 days.

Efforts to minimize the volume of sewage-contaminated runoff that crosses into the United States go back decades and have involved much cross-border collaboration. In the mid-1960s, the city of San Diego built an emergency connection pipe to carry up to 13 million gallons a day of Tijuana sewage for treatment in Point Loma.

The inauguration in 1987 of the San Antonio de los Buenos plant, funded by the Mexican government, was an important turning point for the city— an oxygenation pond facility capable of eventually treating up to 25 million gallons of sewage per day. But even as authorities from both sides of the border celebrated its opening, Judith E. Ayres, then the regional administrator for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, made a prescient remark: “The faster Tijuana grows, the quicker this plant will be rendered inadequate.”

A decade later, a second treatment plant for Tijuana sewage was built across the border in San Ysidro with more than $239 million from the EPA, as well as a contribution from the Mexican government. Operated by the International Boundary and Water Commission, the International Wastewater Treatment Plant treats 25 million gallons of Tijuana wastewater daily to U.S. Clean Water Act standards for discharge into the Pacific Ocean through the South Bay Ocean Outfall.

Other pieces of infrastructure have been crucial to reducing contaminated dry-weather flows across the border. Since 1991, a small pump station by the border known as PB CILA has prevented flows in the Tijuana River from crossing into the United States; but the pump can only operate in dry weather and has recently been subject to repeated breakdowns.

Farther west, on the U.S. side of the border, the International Boundary and Water Commission operates a series of collectors that catch dry-weather runoff from five canyons and pump it to the International Wastewater Treatment Plant.

But critics north of the border say efforts have fallen far short. Among those raising their voice shave been members of the U.S. Border Patrol, who says the contamination that reaches the U.S. side is hazardous to the health of agents assigned to patrol the Tijuana River Valley.

“It’s very clear to me that the CESPT and the governor of Baja California…have no interest in fixing this problem, because they’d have to recognize there’s a problem,” said Imperial Beach Mayor Serge Dedina, and head of the environmental group Wildcoast. “It’s very clear that the infrastructure on the border is not adequate to contain what’s coming across the border.”

Legal pressure for action mounts

Earlier this month, Imperial Beach joined Chula Vista and the Port of San Diego in a federal lawsuit against the U.S. Section of the International Boundary and Water Commission, saying it had repeatedly failed to take measures to address pollution in the Tijuana River Valley. The binational agency, known as IBWC on the U.S. side and CILA in Mexico, is charged with resolving water and boundary disputes on the U.S.-Mexico border.

In recent days, the state of California has been stepping up pressure as well. The San Diego Regional Quality Control Board, a state agency, has issued a draft order requiring the IBWC to produce a water and sediment quality monitoring plan for the Tijuana River. On Monday, board members agreed to issue a 60-day notice of their intent to sue the U.S. IBWC for violations of the Clean Water Act.

David Gibson, executive officer of California’s Regional Water Quality Control Board in San Diego, remembers the days in the 1980s and early 1990s, when “the Tijuana River was nothing but sewage, and it was untreated sewage at about 14 to 18 million gallons a day, rain or shine. It was chunky, raw sewage, you could see the paper, the debris in it.”

Conditions have since improved. “What used to be an everyday event in the river has become more episodic,” said Gibson, though he said in recent years “the numbers of spills and events from the Tijuana River have increased.”

But Gibson said on another front, there has been no improvement: “Has the situation gotten better over 30 years in terms of storm water runoff? Absolutely not.”

In Baja California, the government has identified close to $330 million of upgrades, repairs and new projects that would reduce renegade flows, expand waste water treatment, and recycle the treated effluent rather than discharging it into the Tijuana River channel. But most of these projects remain unfunded.

At a recent breakfast recent meeting in Rosarito Beach, the top federal water official in Baja California outlined the challenges of keeping up with wastewater infrastructure for one of Mexico’s most dynamic regions.

“These actions that are being taken are those that can bring immediate solutions to the greatest number of issues,” Alejandro Cervantes of Mexico’s National Water Commission said as he outlined efforts on various fronts.

But as the population grows and “infrastructure is reaching its life span,” he added, “the issue requires much greater investment.”

The road ahead

Of all the issues that face the Tijuana-San Diego region, perhaps none binds the two cities more intimately than the flow of water. On both sides of the border, some longtime experts say collaboration is the only way forward.

“I realize that folks in San Diego say, ‘Hey, fix it, that’s not our problem,” said Carlos de la Parra, a former Mexican federal environmental official and currently a researcher at the Colegio de la Frontera Norte, a think tank on border issues. “The fact of the matter is that we continue to live in a border that is unlike any border. There is only one border in the world that unites a developing country and an industrial country and this is it.”

De la Parra is also a board member of the North American Development Bank, a bi-national financial institution funded by the U.S. and Mexican governments that has for years played a critical role is developing the city’s existing wastewater infrastructure. In the past 25 years, the bank has channeled more than $124 million in bank loans, Mexican matching funds and EPA Border Environment Infrastructure funds to the region.

The $1.3 trillion U.S. spending package passed by Congress early Friday and signed by President Trump includes $10 million in funding to continue the EPA’s border infrastructure efforts. But next year’s support remains uncertain.

“The U.S. has to be willing to continue to be a partner to help address binational problems and participate in bi-national solutions,” said Ganster, the SDSU professor, who studied the Tijuana River watershed for years.

In 2015, the search for a binational approach to the issues led to Minute 320, a U.S.-Mexico agreement that looked at ways to resolve issues in the watershed. Led by the IBWC and its Mexican counterpart, CILA, the agreement brings together members of government agencies, environmentalists and citizens from both sides of the border in work groups that address the issues of water quality, sediment and solid waste.

Denise Moreno Ducheny, a former state senator and now a senior policy advisor at the University of California San Diego said it’s time to push for the next step.

“How do we get from work groups to seeing something happen?” asked Ducheny, who is also a North American Development Bank board member. “How do we get the pressure politically and how do we get the funding to make these projects happen?”

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