Dam Design and Construction, Government and Policy News, Latin America, New Development, News

Mexico to prioritize six dam projects, one with hydropower, in 2020

Water authority Conagua says it will prioritize six dam projects in 2020 as part of a plan to “transform the Mexican water sector.” This includes construction of two new dams with combined investment of about MXN12 billion (US$530 million), complementary works for three existing or almost finished dams, and the possibility of reviving an older project.

According to BNamericas, Conagua Director Blanca Jiménez Cisneros told the lower house’s water committee on July 1 that the agency has a list of 13 priority projects for 2020 and six of those involve dams. Also, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) said his government had concluded the construction of two new dams and was working on the construction of another two since taking office in December 2018.

The dam projects in the pipeline are:

Santa Maria — Construction began in 2015 but Enrique Peña Nieto failed to conclude it by December 2018 when he left office. AMLO vowed to complete the dam, saying he would find the means to finance it.

The project, on the Baluarte River in southern Sinaloa, suffered a setback last August when local residents obtained a temporary suspension from a district judge. The suspension restrained Conagua and Mexican firm ICA, which was awarded the project, from accessing the site. But Sinaloa governor Quirino Ordaz Coppel announced on May 15 that the legal dispute had been settled and work would resume soon.

The project was originally estimated at MXN7.7 billion (US$303.6 million) and the federal government assigned MXN1.5 billion (US$59.1 million) to continue its construction this year. The project is reported to be 20% complete and should be concluded in 2021.

Santa María will have 980 million m3 of water storage capacity and irrigate 25,000 ha of agricultural land in the municipalities of Rosario and Escuinapa. It will also generate hydropower, but BNamericas did not provide any details on the powerhouse.

La Libertad — Plans to construct the MXN5.1 billion (US$202.1 million) La Libertad dam in the northern state of Nuevo León moved forward this month with the launch of the project’s tender. Water and sewerage utility SADM will receive bids to construct the almost 2,000-m-wide and 47-m-tall grout curtain of the dam, along with other water distribution works, according to procurement site Compranet.

The winner of the tender will be announced Aug. 19, and works are expected to begin Sept. 1. Authorities have set Aug. 31, 2023, as the inauguration date for the fourth dam in the border state.

La Libertad dam will have storage capacity of 220 million m3, which will be enough to distribute 50 million m3 to the nearby municipalities and Monterrey. The project was conceived to replace the failed Monterrey VI aqueduct, and Conagua included it in its 2030 water plan. The project should be financed in equal parts by the federal and state governments.

El Zapotillo — The project involves building a dam on the Verde River in Jalisco state and a complementary pipeline and was also left unfinished by the previous administration but AMLO pledged to resume the work.

However, local opposition has not waned in spite of the lengthy legal battle some communities have waged since the project was announced. Additionally, questions still remain regarding the financial and technical feasibility of the project. Also, a supreme court ruling banned government authorities in 2013 from carrying out any construction work at the site, according to daily La Jornada. So it is unclear how or when the government could resume work on the project.

The reservoir would involve construction of an aqueduct to draw water from the dam, which was originally set to supply water to León, Jalisco state capital Guadalajara and the Altos de Jalisco region.

The other three projects mentioned are Los Pilares-Bicentenario dam in Sonora state, El Chihuero dam in Michoacán state and Picachos dam in Sinaloa.

For Los Pilares-Bicentenario, the dam was concluded this year in the municipality of Alamos, authorities confirmed to local media in May. Works began in 2013 with estimated investment of MXN1.7 billion (US$67 million). The purpose of building the 478 million m3 capacity dam was to prevent floods in the lower basin of the Mayo River.

Construction of El Chihuero dam began in 2014, Michoacan state authorities announced this week. The original investment was estimated at MXN273 million (US$10.8 million).

Picachos dam in Mazatlán city was concluded years ago but remains underused as the complementary aqueduct that will draw water from the reservoir for irrigation has been on hold for the past few years due to opposition from local communities, as well as a lack of funding. The government said in January it would launch the tender for the first 8-km stage of the aqueduct this year. The complementary aqueduct would help irrigate 2,500 ha of 16 communities in Mazatlán, Concordia and El Rosario municipalities.