Beyond the unforgettable sunsets over the sea and fascinating desert backdrop of the Desert of Altar, challenges arise from time to time to life here in Puerto Peñasco. Over the fifteen years we’ve lived here, these issues have run the gamut of streets peppered with pot holes, spontaneous city lakes when it rains, flies, Summer water shortages due to increased consumption, faulty pipes and work on city wells, and let’s not forget roadwork in Sonoyta that led to a detour through an arroyo hit by flashfloods from time to time, among others. Currently, some of the challenges the community is experiencing on different levels include that of adequate water supply to all parts of town, and a rash of reports concerning home burglaries. Admittedly, each of these two issues are leaving a bitter taste while resolutions continue to be sought.
“If you haven’t bathed with garrafón water in Rocky Point, you haven’t lived in Rocky Point” – anonymous
Puerto Peñasco’s water supply is a well-known uncomfortable topic, and has been for years. Those living outside the central core of town (i.e. not connected to city water lines) are already familiar with ordering water trucks “pipas” to fill home water tanks and cisterns. Resort complexes and hotels are also stringent on maintaining their cisterns full. In town, however, and particularly for areas to the east along the city’s main water lines, “pipas” are not generally the norm and when water issues occur (broken pipes, poorly maintained lines, years of poor maintenance, not enough wells operating, increased demands on water supply with growing population and increased tourism, etc.), water pressure dwindles and parts are left without direct incoming water to fill even their own cisterns. Many with cisterns get in the habit of monitoring water levels and self-rationing. Some parts of the city have been grappling with varying levels of water supply since early March, while efforts to resolve the situation by repairing wells, digging new ones, and replacing worn equipment have been underway since about the same time.
According to a short video put out by the city, Puerto Peñasco derives its water from 11 wells located on the Kennedy and Agua Zarca ejidos (communal land grants) approximately 18-28 miles north of town. Of these, about half are in operation, while others have aging equipment. Once excavated from the working wells, water then makes its way to the tank located on Whale Hill, though for various reasons the tank cannot be filled by more than 50%. The video details gravity pulls water into the pipes, 40% of which can be lost through filtration (leaks or porous pipes), and as pressure diminishes along the route at times it does not reach the higher parts of the city. Add to this a series of water breaks in recent months, aging pipes, along with repairs on wells still in operation, and you’ve got parts of town that have had no water issues while other sectors of the city have become all too familiar with emphasizing the value of the precious liquid while waiting with eager anticipation for a “pipa” to show up, not to mention using the large water bottles “garrafón” to help meet daily needs.
Federal and municipal funds of more than 18.5 million pesos are presently being put into resolving Puerto Peñasco’s water supply issues, of which the local administration plans to invest in sectorizing supply to different parts of town, extending water lines, as well as refurbishing the city’s water tank so it may be more efficient. Rehabilitation of city well No. 2 concluded this past week, which is being followed up with work to rehabilitate city well No. 3. We do not have concrete information as to when regular water service to all sectors of town (connected to city lines) will be fully restored.
OOMAPAS (the Municipal Office of Potable Water, Sewage, and Sanitation) can be called at 638-383-3507 / 383-5616 / 383-6080 for free water service delivery “pipas” (though due to demand not necessarily the fastest). Many other individuals have opted to pay for water tanks through private companies to help ensure faster service (starting at around 500 pesos [about $28 US]).
See something, say something
On a completely different topic (unless maybe you’ve had your water pump stolen), as a translator I am called on now and again to assist folks at the local police station with translating papers on stolen vehicles, documents for follow-up on a break-in, or even to decipher requirements of insurance providers (TIP: take pictures of belongings and keep somewhere for possible future reference – keeping receipts is also helpful).
A number of people from across the community (Mexican and foreigners) have been discussing more actively than the norm what locally some call the work of “amantes de lo ajeno” (lovers of other people’s things). Local police remark that reforms to Mexico’s judicial system, passed by Mexican Congress in 2008 yet that went into effect earlier this Spring, have made it more difficult for them to follow through with cases, adding the process of reporting has changed. At the same time, community members in different parts of the city are stepping up efforts to form Neighborhood Watch groups, which would appear to complement the goals of the State Secretary of Public Safety’s “Escudo Ciudadano” (Citizens Shield) program announced in mid-May by SSP Secretary Adolfo García Morales.
This past week, a representative from the police department, along with the translation assistance of staff from the mayor’s office, attended a “townhall” type meeting with a number of foreign (US/Canadian) residents who have chosen Puerto Peñasco as their home. One of the main takeaways from the meeting was the importance of alerting police to any unusual activity (at one’s home or around the neighborhood), as well as knowing steps to follow if/when filing a police report and keeping on top of the report as it moves through the system.
If one were visited by an “amante de lo lejano”
- Call Emergency Number 066 Also, 089 provides an anonymous tip line.
- Police are to fill out a report form on site if called to a home, business, etc. which the police are then responsible for filing with the Public Prosecutor’s Office (Ministerio Público) in order for this to then become a formal investigation. The MP in turn files the report with the State Investigative Police (Policia Estatal Investigador PEI)
- The individual (or rather, you) who filed the report with the police is responsible for follow up with the Public Prosecutor’s Office (located in the Police Station [to your left as you go into the station]).
- If you file a report directly at the police station, you are still reponsible for a follow-up report with the Ministerio Público (similar to former system)
To assist the English speaking community in Puerto Peñasco with navigating through these steps, the City requests you please contact:
Claudia Ocampo Pérez
Cell: 638 110 8072
The city recently sent additional police recruits for training, given the new judicial reforms, and also reports to be stepping up patrols in different parts of town. Neighborhood Watch groups, much like in the U.S., are also becoming a more frequent topic across Peñasco’s colonias…perhaps add to that keeping watch for a water “pipa”.