Checkered doesn’t even begin to describe the tragi-comical saga of the Zapotillo Dam project in north-eastern Jalisco.
In 2006, the National Water Commission (Conagua) first proposed that a dam be built on the Rio Verde in the Los Altos region of Jalisco. The resulting water supply would serve to help slake the thirst of the thriving city of Leon to the north, and to a lesser extent, the metropolis of Guadalajara to the southwest. Despite many objections, construction began in 2009 with the goal of wrapping things up by 2013. Four years after that optimistic end date the dam is far from complete and the project is still immersed in controversy.
The Lerma-Chapala Basin, which includes parts of Jalisco, CDMX, Guanajuato, Michoacán and Queretaro, has had a long history of water-related troubles. According to a case study by Conagua published in 2012, the basin produces 53 percent of the country’s exports and has a population of 10.44 million people, 77 percent of whom lives in cities.
The Lerma-Chapala-Santiago hydrologic system provides this large, central macro-region with most of its water, which mainly resides in the water table.