Fate sealed for communities opposing Mexico's El Zapotillo dam

Friday, June 30, 2017

After releasing the results of a study on the El Zapotillo reservoir project in Mexico's Jalisco state, governor Aristóteles Sandoval confirmed that the dam wall will be 105m high, flooding three communities, according to local press reports.

The study was commissioned by the state government and produced by the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS).

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According to the study, building a wall of a lower height – a measure that would prevent the need to flood the communities – would make the project unfeasible. The reservoir will supply water to state capital Guadalajara, the Los Altos region and León, a city in neighboring Guanajuato state.

Sandoval lamented that he could not keep one of his governorship campaign promises to prevent the districts of Temacapulín, Acasico and Palmarejo from disappearing, reported daily Excelsior.

"[I have to] make it absolutely clear: saving Temacapulín is no longer, from a technical standpoint, a feasible option," he is quoted as saying.

The governor said no works resulting in flooding will be carried out until the residents of the area are relocated and awarded suitable compensation.

The study was conducted at a cost of 90mn pesos (US$4.9mn) and, according to press reports, shares the conclusion of other studies conducted by water authority Conagua.

Construction of the dam on the Río Verde began in late 2009 with an original completion date of 2015. The works are the responsibility of Spanish construction companies FCC and Grupo Hermes, as well as Mexican firm La Penínsular.

The project will require investment of some 10bn pesos, with the federal government expected to provide 96.8% and Jalisco state the rest.

The reservoir will be located 100km from Guadalajara and is expected to have storage capacity of 411Mm3 and supply 9m3/s of water for 25 years.

Currently work is stopped with the dam wall 80m due to a court order following a legal challenge filed by the communities to be affected.

The dam forms part of a larger project that also includes the construction of a pipeline, which has also faced several financial and legal difficulties.