The start-up of the Guaymas-Empalme desalination plant in the state of Sonora, a relief for the serious drought that Mexico is suffering

El proyecto, que ha contado con una inversión cercana a los 42 millones de euros, abastece de agua potable a más de 155.000 habitantes que hasta ahora padecían un racionamiento en el abastecimiento de agua potable. La planta ha sido diseñada y construida por Aqualia, que operará la infraestructura los próximos 18 años

The project, which has required an investment of close to 42 million euros, supplies drinking water to more than 155,000 inhabitants who until now suffered from rationing in the supply of drinking water. The plant was designed and built by Aqualia, which will operate the infrastructure for the next 18 years. At the inauguration ceremony of the plant, the governor of the State of Sonora, Alfonso Durazo, highlighted that this infrastructure “solves a historical problem of water shortage in a territory that is in the focus of President López Obrador to receive a very important transformation”

Mexico’s National Water Commission (Conagua) has decreed the start of an emergency for severe, extreme, or exceptional drought in its basins for the year 2022. According to the Mexican Drought Monitor, 571 municipalities in the country (23.2 % of the total) are affected by some level of this phenomenon.

According to the Monitor, the states most affected by drought are Aguascalientes, Baja California, and Sonora, where 100 % of their municipalities have some level of drought. The recent commissioning of the Guaymas desalination plant, a project designed and executed by Aqualia, will help to alleviate the serious situation in the state of Sonora, one of the states most affected by the drought.

The new Guaymas-Empalme Seawater Desalination Plant (SWRO) was commissioned at a ceremony presided over by the governor of the state of Sonora, Alfonso Durazo. The plant will alleviate the current situation of drinking water rationing suffered by more than 155,000 inhabitants of this locality. The technical solution consists of extracting seawater from seven beach wells located near the coastline. This water is taken to a reverse osmosis desalination plant, using membranes for filtration, where it is processed to meet drinking water standards. 

The plant’s production capacity is 200 litres per second (l/s) or 17,280 cubic metres per day (m³/d), which is equivalent to filling 300 Olympic-size swimming pools per day. Once the drinking water is produced, it is sent to a tank and transported through an 11-kilometre pipeline to both towns. 

The Governor was joined at the event by Alfonso de la Torre, General Director of Urban Infrastructure and Ecology, and other authorities and citizen representatives from the region. During his speech, the Governor stressed that the SWRO “comes to solve a historical problem of lack of water in a territory that is in the focus of President López Obrador to receive a very important transformation”.

The desalination plant has been developed as a PPP (Public-Private Partnership) project to provide drinking water delivery services for the municipalities of Guaymas and Empalme. The project has involved an investment of close to 42 million euros, financed by Aqualia (54%) and by FONADIN-BANOBRAS, Mexico’s National Bank for Public Works and Services (Banco Nacional de Obras y Servicios Públicos de México) for the remaining 46%.

The towns of Guaymas-Empalme are in a desert area and have been suffering from water shortages for several decades. Its population has long been supplied with water from the San José de Guaymas aquifer for industrial, commercial, and domestic uses. The desalination plant built by Aqualia is the result of the fight against water stress in the region, which will alleviate the rationing situation and thus guarantee the supply of drinking water in an efficient and sustainable manner. 

Presence in Mexico

Aqualia has a solid presence in Mexico and is the only private company that operates in all areas of water treatment in the Aztec country: on the one hand, the company manages the collection and treatment of inland water for drinking water in Querétaro and San Luis Potosí (State of San Luis Potosí), through the El Realito system and aqueduct, with the capacity to produce 1 cubic metre per second (1m³/sg) and supply more than 1.2 million inhabitants. 

Aqualia also manages the Cuernavaca Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP) in the capital of the State of Morelos. In 2020, Aqualia acquired the company Ecosistemas de Morelos (EMSA), responsible for the operation of the plant, which has a capacity of 65,000 m³/day and serves more than 400,000 inhabitants.

From now on and for the next 18 years, Aqualia will be responsible for operating the desalination plant, commissioned with the aim of alleviating the critical supply situation in these towns in Sonora.