Word Water Day in Baja

World Water Day, observed on March 22 was established to bring attention to the condition of the world’s water supply. The theme for 2014 is water and energy use, however, the biggest issue in my hometown in Baja, Mexico is water pollution, and so that’s what this post deals with.

My partner Jim and I moved to Baja California, Mexico, in 1997 where we found bottled water a big deal because many people, immigrants and natives alike, even now feel the water supply is not up to standard. As an example: Once we were playing bridge at someone else’s house when I turned on the faucet for a glass of water. Even though the water is potable, the hostess was alarmed. She was sure I’d come down with a horrible illness. Since she was playing a hand at the time, I drank the tap water—with no bad results.

The belief that the city water is polluted goes back to earlier times when it did cause intestinal problems. Yet I can attest to the fact that after visiting the area for about a decade and then moving here, I have never suffered from the so-called Moctezuma’s revenge.
On the other hand, our first house was near a beach where we often walked. But there was one section of that beach we avoided, a spot where a stream spilled down from another community that sat on a hill across a highway. Whereas our community had a sewage treatment plant, the other community didn’t. This is because each community outside the city proper is responsible, in part, for its own upkeep. The stench in this stream was nearly overwhelming.
There is another stretch of beach in the city proper that also is polluted. Here another stream empties into the Pacific Ocean. Jim and I always avoided crossing this area too. So far as I know the stream contained no sewage…but if you walked close enough, your nose burned and your eyes itched. Sometimes the stream was dry, but in the rainy season, in particular, the water was often covered in sudsy foam, like you’d find in a washing machine. This occurred when one or more factories in the area dump waste.

And where did it spill into the ocean? In an area where locals swam, surfed, boated, fished and dug for clams. Unfortunately, the spot where the stream and the ocean meet is close to a large hotel. Many tourists who stay there swim nearby, and kids play in the water. Most never learn that some of these areas are polluted.

I feel such pollution need not exist in North America. Yes, there are other areas of the world where people are forced to wash clothes and bathe in polluted water, but they are known. Here, the problem is hidden. With just a little effort the situation in Baja could be remedied. How? By penalizing the factories that cause the pollution and, by forcing the communities without sewage treatment plants to build and use them. The drinking water was solved. The fact is, it would be much easier to deal with the polluted steams than it was to build water treatment plants.

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