The deep end: Questions and answers
Francisco Calderón Córdova

Mr. Francisco Calderón Córdova is a photographer and a specialist in environmental issues on the radio, TV and Internet (Mexico). We would like to share some parts of the interview Mr. Calderón gave us some months ago. It was a very interesting experience (apart from all the information he gave us) because the interview was virtual: he was in Mexico, and the rest of us were in Peru and Spain. The whole interview was done through Skype. Little did we know that this was only the beginning, and that Mr. Calderon would be with us via Skype in the I Conference on Water Shortage and Conservation that we organized at CEP Santa Rosa. So here you have our first interview with Mr. Francisco Calderón Córdova.

Q: How has the deforestation (cutting of trees) affected the water cycle in Mexico?

A: Deforestation is a primary problem, it is causing erosion of the ground, the sea is rising, water is becoming stagnant. We have reached a point in which we only take into consideration human use, and we don't take into consideration the water that the ecosystems need.

Q: In what sector is the treated wastewater used?

A: It is used in farming, to irrigate the vegetable crops. Most people suspect that the vegetables they eat are irrigated with this water. That is the reason why, before they eat them, they give them hygienic treatment.

Q:What do families do to prevent water leaks?

A: Nothing really, they continue wasting water.

Q: Is there any sort of strategic plan to raise awareness in order to prevent a bad use of water amongst the people? If so, who is in charge of it?

A: In the private sector there is no contribution in awareness to prevent the misuse of water, only the public sector spends on TV advertisement, radio and display. This last one often doesn't reach very remote areas of the city. In radio we have several broadcaster, one is where I work. The only private company that is working for the care of the water is Coca Cola, knowing that without this liquid, its business could break.

Q: If Mexico have a lot of timberline and it makes felling of trees. Which market are the finished products destinated for?

A: Felled trees are not sold, they are cut down because it needs the land for agriculture or livestock. Even many of the felled trees are too small to be used in a process of industrialization.

Q:How can it make the equality in the acquisition of water?

A: You are touching a very important issue that has been debated in recent world summits of water. First we must identify that this is a human right for all. It isn't only have access or not to the sources from which we can dispose the water but that the state authorities ensure equal access to this service no matter with socioeconomic levels, ethnic groups, urban or rural. We can not deny that there is an enormous inequity because of the economic structure of different societies. On the planet there are over 1000 million people without access to potable water services, health or treated water. This is very serious because we are talking about the seventh part of the world population, it's means, one in every seven human beings on the planet does not have access to these services. There are also groups that are excluded , especially the women. In African countries they have to walk up to 6 miles or more to bring a few gallons of water, which ultimately is insufficient to cover their basic needs. There are kinds of inequality as dramatic as those experienced in African countries, in some Asian countries and in different regions of the world I think the way to ensure that there will be more fairness in water distribution, in the access, availability, in all these sorts of infrastructure systems, etc.. It goes hand to civic participation, it is much more democratic for the people that they can participate in this creation of infrastructure, to decide where public budgets goes and create these types of services needed for the population. Basically it, and have more information about science, knowledge, technological progress, to serve the people and the needs, in this case water. On the other side we must dispose this anthropocentric view of the water. We must consider that not only human beings have the need for fresh water also ecosystems need certain quantities or supply of freshwater to stay healthy and to give us the so-called environmental services to human communities

Q: All activities that can be done to create equality in the purchase of water are in long term. The changes that are occurring are very fast, let's say that it is in short term and in 2050 or 2040 we will have too much lack of water, then perhaps it would be too late. Do you agree?

A: The hope teaches you that you ought to take decisions faster and be more transcendent. There have been global conferences such as the World Water Forum that speaks about the urgency of solving the issue of this, but it must be an integral vision. The water passes through it all, then we cannot see it as an isolated issue. For example if we talk about other environmental problems like garbage, its solid waste, the fact that doesn't exist a proper management in sanitarys confinement to deposit these causes when rain falls on this garbage, contaminates the land, the lixiviates, which call all these substances off the trash, and water. The problem is that we have to look holistically, the garbage problem has to do with water, the problem of air pollution also has to do with water, acid rain, etc.. It is integral, unfortunately, a long-term issue because there are many processes of contamination of consumption habits, of the right use of water that doesn't have the perception that we are causing terrible environmental damage and harm to human health and plant health , to animal health and the health of life. There are countries that are walking in this direction, but I think we are going in slow steps in the long run as well stresses Emma.
In Mexico about 80% of freshwater is used in agriculture and the other 17% is used in cities for domestic or industrial purposes and other uses. There is a huge waste of water because there aren't appropriate technologies to use water. Of course the way to avoid waste in the agricultural sector is to use better technology and do not talk about dams, or changing the route of the watershed in the country or countries of the world but to use science and technology for this .

Q:What measures are being taken respect to the awareness of water?

A: In Mexico, we are making progress, but not enough. Public Environmental Policy, in matters of air, have been growing in places like Mexico City, Guadalajara and Monterrey, which are the three densest urban concentrations and the more important in the country. It made progress also on the issue of waste, solid waste separation into organic and inorganic, and along with that, also it promotes recycling. But in the field of water, the campaigns have been very "pale", because only about 20% - 40% of wastewater across the country are going through treatment plants to recycle water, clean it and return it to the environment in a clean way, which is very little, because it should be 100% of wastewater treated ,in this way it thus prevent all the pollution in different watersheds of the country. There are efforts by civil society organizations that focus on water issues, as well as some efforts are very isolated example of social media companies like Televisa group, which has done some campaigns, lasting no more than two months and then disappear completely, however, by other way they are stimulating not sustainable consumer habits. They haven't been campaigns with the impact it should have or the persistence or continuity. Public radio does, myself, participated in public radio that has a national network of 17 stations. On the Internet, social networks are exploiting and we can say that there arepermanent campaigns to raise awareness about water and different environmental issues, but we need a partnership between different sectors, which are privatesector, business, industrial, the government sector in its three levels of government, federal, state and provincial, and begin to transform since we are young to understand all about the water cycle.

Joana Vaquer
Health Inspector (for the Department of Health of the Balearic Islands Autonomic Government)

Here is a small part of our interview with Joana Ma Vaquer (who very kindly met us in her office after Boxing Day. The interview lasted more than an hour, and here you have some of the interesting information she gave us.

Q: Joana, in general, is water disinfected in developed countries?

A: - Yes, it is disinfected, and in developed countries water is controlled. Sodium hypochlorite or chlorine are added: what we do, is add this product to drinking water in a given concentration set between 140 to 2003 (these levels are between 0.6-1 ppm (part per million) of chemical). The amounts of this added chemical, have disinfectant properties but they are not harmful to humans, and because of this chemical. Although it is hard to believe that we have to add a chemical to our drinking water every day, thanks to this chemical, we have managed to eradicate many diseases and we have made water more drinkable on a microbiological level. The idea is that we need to disinfect the water for it to be drinkable at a microbiological level.

Q: So the notion that chlorine is bad, has not been proven then.

A: At the moment it hasn't. There are many studies against it, especially from environmentalists. It is true that before it was not used, but people also used to die of diseases that today, in developed countries, no longer exist. We really don't have any cases here of people dying of cholera or some disease of the sort. The idea is this, that with this product we have succeeded in eradicating it, and because the chlorine hasn't killed anyone, then it is better to use it than to stop using it.

Q: Do Managers meet current regulations regarding drinking water?

A: - Generally they do, although we (the inspectors) are there to make sure of that. I am a health inspector and I specialize in water. When I go to check on the managers who are responsible for our supply areas, I find a bit of everything. Some people are responsible, others not as much. Our idea is to help, not to impose; we have to make sure this is all done properly and that everything meets the regulations. The idea is this, that the infrastructure is there and that it meets the regulations. But we always try to help, our aim is not to punish, but rather the opposite: we try to figure out why they have not done well and if we can try to fix it. If not, obviously sometimes there comes a time when the person is sanctioned for failure, but that only happens after a long process.

Q: Well, here in Mallorca, many aquifers are polluted by salt water. How can we avoid them being polluted?

A: As Mallorca is an island, it is surrounded by salt water. What has happened here is that all the underground parts of the island are full of caves and the salt water and the fresh water communicate. Due to our excessive consumption of freshwater, groundwater levels have fallen to the sea, the seawater has come into contact with fresh water and then it has mixed. Basically this is due to the high consumption of water, because we're a very touristic area and tourism is the reason aquifers have been emptied, especially in summer, and the salt water has contaminated the ground water with salt. This is something that cannot be avoided, we can't stop tourism, as it is our main source of income. What could have been done is destine some of the income to desalination plants, but it wasn't so.

Q: How many years do you think we can enjoy water living the way we do now, consuming huge amounts of water?

A: Well, this is a question with no answer, it Is very subjective. We all need to be aware that water is a natural resource that we must appreciate because it is essential. Think that the human body consists of more than 70% water. So it's important to have that water, as it is necessary and we should all become aware that we should take a bit more care of it. What happens is that in developed countries it is not always appreciated because we have it at our disposal and all around us. Some generations back, in our grandparents' time, it was different. But now, people open a faucet and water comes out, always. But we do not appreciate it until we don't have it, and this is the problem. We should all understand that we must not waste this natural resource, as it is so essential. I think it will last for quite a long time. But exactly how long? I couldn't say.

Q: what would it take for water to be distributed equally for everyone to have access to it?

A: That's a difficult question, because unfortunately the world is badly divided. There are places where there are large quantities of water, like the north, where there is an excess of water and they have never had water shortage. Unfortunately, developing countries are those that have less water. So sharing this resource is very difficult, because the water comes to us from the rain and if it doesn't rains in these countries, it's never going to rain. The idea is that they learn to manage the little water they have. Developed countries that have a lot could do infrastructures to help them. I do not know the solution to this, but it is very difficult, especially because they are located in a region in the world where it rains little, which is the most important factor. Also, it seems that people who have a lot find it difficult to give to those who have less.

Q: We know that water prices will increase sharply in coming years, how does the price affect the industrial and agricultural sectors?

A: Well, they say the price of water will go up. It all depends on what the manager spends on the water. If they have to make investments, this is a business and need to get some profit out of it, and it's expensive as it is, without the price going up. We Health workers have to do research to get the water to become drinkable. I believe that in all the places where some investment is done, the water will go up, as they have to get some sort of benefit. Otherwise, it doesn't necessarily have to go up.

Q: Who is in charge of the drinking water in Spain?

A: Each autonomous community has its own competences in this sector. What we do have in common in Spain is a computer system called SINAC (National Information System for Drinking Water) where all managers have to introduce their infrastructure, analysis of water per year, who shares the water, how many cubic meters per days is spread ... It's a kind of summary of what each one has and what they do in their area.

Q: How does population growth, urbanization and industrial production affect water quality?

A: A lot. I have already discussed the issue of Mallorca, where everything has been exploited and has been far too urbanized and therefore, has been spending more of water. We don't have that many industries, so they aren't really a problem. However, they have been in other parts of Spain itself. All of this has caused an increase in the price of water, because of the population growth.

Q: How do you get the quality of water to be sustainable?

A: Everyone should be aware that water is contaminated very easily and we all have to avoid that. It's difficult because some people are very concerned but others are not. Also, we abuse a little of chemical fertilizers, which is damaging. Most of the nitrates come from these fertilizers and are the cause of the pollution of our groundwater.

Q: Do we underestimate the water in developed countries? How can humans avoid water shortages?

A: Yes, do underestimate it. They could be avoided if each and every one of us was aware and managed our water properly. We have the advantage that we have never suffered any shortage. I'm the first, when I shower or wash my hands, who doesn't turn the tap off. If we were all careful with these small things, we would save tons and tons of water every day. But we don't really care, because we've never gone without it. I think that if we were aware we could keep on using and enjoying this resource for a very long time. We have to reach a middle ground where people know that yes, we do have it, but one day we could run out. And then what would we do. There will be in such a mess that it won't be possible to go back. The main thing is for us not to get to that point.

Thank you for giving us the opportunity to interview you, and thank you for having collaborated on our project.

It's been a pleasure. I've only been working here for a couple of years. I'm actually a pharmacist and even though now I'm in this world, but thanks to my few years of experience here, I have been able draw some conclusions that I hope will have been useful for such an interesting project. Thank you for considering me for participation.

The original interview can be found on our blog: Blog Water, the new petrol - Joana Mar¡a

Jorge Novoa

On this occasion, we're going to be speaking to Jorge Novoa.

Interview by: Fabricio Núñez de La Cruz, Carlos Cabrera Reyes and Jonathan Salazar Aguilar.

Regarding mining and waste:

Q: What measure would you do about growing open pit mining?

A: Open pit mining is a huge problem. Two types of mining are done this way: One is industrial, which means breaking a mountain and extracting the minerals from it, or what the artisan miners do at Ayabaca, Suyo ... they both cause a problem because the metals used to attract gold, are highly volatile. Mercury, which is liquid at room temperature, evaporates rapidly and enter the pores of the people working around when the temperature rises. The same happens with the animals in the area, and then it ends up in the water as waste. To counter this, the first thing you should do is respect the current State regulations. That is the first thing. The second is to use all personal protective equipment required by law to protect personnel and to mitigate the effects on the environment. This means using closed containers, instead of pouring waste directly into the body of surface water. It should be stored in large impermeable containers to prevent seepage and, therefore, preventing water pollution. This is the only thing you can do in the case of mining.

Q: What about gold mining?

A: Actually, the problem of conservation of all resources in Peru is a social and educational problem. People don't do artisanal mining just because they want to do artisanal mining, but because they feed their families thanks to it. Directly, it is their form of income. They do it in an inappropriate manner, in precarious conditions. That's the real problem. They do not respect the rules, laws and the environment. They threaten all of us at different heights in the basin. Is it a good or a bad business? We can not say. We're just not approaching the problem the right way.

Q: Artisanal mining will produce more pollution than the formal mining, but in any case, how do think we can replace this type of informal activity? What other activity can the locals carry out?

A: An economic activity that replaces another must be equivalent in various aspects: money, dwellers... we are a mining country, a good percentage of people that live in the country are miners. Then, there are many things people could do. It may be tourism. The first point that must be developed to change this system that is destroying the environment, is education. You have to educate so that people are aware that what they are doing it wrong, and from there they can begin to consider solutions. While people are not aware that what they are doing is harmful to them and to the environment (not only to animals and plants including the atmosphere) they will not change their mind.

Q: What application and position would you implement for the handling and shipment of waste?

A: Well, you have to institutionalize the system of solid waste. This is a circle that begins in the home storage, collection and final distribution of waste. Once again, the main factor is education: this cannot be implemented in a society that is not educated. The measure to be taken is to make a campaign of awareness and environmental education. We must start teaching everyone, right down from the youngest, that their house is not a dump.

Q: In the region are there currently any measures to be applied?

A: Yes, definitely. In the region and the country, there are very good regulations. But they are nothing more than a mere piece of paper. There are regulations within the General Environmental Law, Constitutional Law of the municipalities, and within the whole government of Peru. There are laws and guidelines that direct the process, but they are not enforced. And the problem is that people, aren't aware that these laws exist. So the problem is not so much that the authorities don't do anything, but that we do not require them to do so.

Q: So there is no diffusion?

A: Besides the fact that there is no diffusion of the laws, people are not aware of it. The neighbors throw garbage into the street, for example. When they should not be doing so.

Q: What surprised me was that a few days ago, in a nearby district, at noon, I saw a bag of trash fall. And suddenly, a bit further on, I saw a woman coming out to throw her bag of trash too. Thus, the street ended up completely dirty. Then, as you say, there is a lack of culture. As an expert, what would the approach on the subject be?

A: We return to the point. The main factor to eliminate a problem is awareness. Once you know about the problem, you know what the weaknesses are. For example, a major weakness is the lack of environmental awareness on the part of society. While this culture remains weak, while the different agencies, that are the regulators, do not have an operational capacity, we won't be able to do anything. We can only educate and continue educating people. Perhaps our generation will not, but maybe the next will, so that when they begin to write and speak, they will grow up with that reality in their minds, that they should not be messing things up, because everything that is around them, their home, the streets, the river, also belongs to them. Not taking care of our environment brings diseases, and all the crises we now have. If we want to go fishing in the river, we could die from an infection. We have generated that ourselves, in an indirect way. On one hand, for not participating in the process, and on another, because they never taught us to participate in the process. What is urgently needed, is environmental education. And that's also part of the social crisis in which we find ourselves. People do not have values. Especially because they think "I pay taxes and so I pay the sweepers to clean the streets (why should I be doing it?)"

Q: What about the use of high proportions of cyanide in mining and the risk of pollution of surface water and groundwater?

A. Cyanide is one of the most toxic chemicals. Cockroaches, that are among the most resistant animals, can survive teh explosion of a nuclear bomb: the radiation won't kill them. But if we put a cockroach in a container with a bit of cyanide, the cockroach dies. If an animal that strong (that can withstand a high level of radiation) dies at that level, with cyanide, imagine what would happen to humans.

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