The State of Sonora, Mexico ----------May 2006 

                                                                                                                                                                                                           After a web of trails converged upon the desert city of Hermosillo, we embarked on a knowledge quest. Our group consisted of students from Canada, Michigan Tech and Mexico. We all met for one goal. To learn about the water resource issues that perplexes the State of Sonora today. So we spent ten days of intense heat and artificial coldness traveling around Mexico. This field trip was a perfect ending to the school year.


The City of Hermosillo expands graciously across a flat dirt plane towards the ocean.  Its streets hum beneath the towering landmark El Cerro de la Campana. Its explosive population places the number or residents between 500,000 and 1,000,000. Oxxo’s and taquerias occupy every corner. The mind perceives new environments with sharp and keen excitement. If it’s something familiar, detail can be overlooked. Cars buzz around similar to any U.S. city and department stores consume city blocks. Yet the music is Spanish and the flavor is red. And the food is so good. Gooble! Gooble! I did not restrain myself from eating just about everything and I got sick too.


The time was so relaxing and our hosts did a superb job. I give many thanks to all the professors who had worked hard organizing the trip. Special thanks to Augustine Robles for being the translator and comedian.


The State of Sonora is hot and scorching. They receive trivial amounts of rainfall. A blame battle has erupted about the water usage. Consumption is out of control and the city claims agriculture is the bane. Farmers feel the unsurpassed and growing numbers of city slickers are to blame. Regardless, all water comes from pumped groundwater. The depths to reach the water table are staggering. The City of Hermosillo is in the process of constructing nearly two dozen wells to pump water up from depths of 100 to 150 meters. The water table keeps dropping and the life span of these wells are uncertain. Not enough knowledge exists about the aquifer. To pick a side, farming is actually the big consumer and effectively causes more strain. 90% of the water usage in the state is attributed to incredibly inefficient flood irrigation techniques. Grapes in the desert to satisfy the pickings of globalization.


In our field trip we visited an agricultural college. Solutions have been found that will reduce water use in agriculture. Yet traditional flood irrigation holds paramount, it’s too risky to not do it according to traditions. No crops equals no money. Farmers work the way they always have. Farmers play an individual role of citizens in society. An overall restriction to curb usage can provide tremendous results but universal agreement hasn’t been reached. The people know they are in a dire situation.


Electrical conductivity and currents can measure underground aquifer depths. The sun can vaporize water the moment it reaches the surface. Faulty and degraded infrastructure will waste as much as 40% of pumped water before it reaches the tap. It is common to see water trails flowing into the streets of the city.


The landscape is fascinating. Cactus of all types and sizes blanket the terrain. Sun baked mountains loom in the background. The higher elevation terrain in Sonora houses different types of plants since rainfall is greater and climate is cooler. In the sizzling areas around Hermosillo, 3% of the rainfall will recharge the groundwater. The aquifer is not infinite. Ancient water has been stored for eras of time. The rivers are dried, the same as two reservoirs we visited. There has been a drought since 1994. Our trip took us to see pumps in villages, view oxidation ponds and meet with mayors, technicians and congressmen. Everyone was extremely nice and welcoming. The highlight of the trip was the creating and jamming with “The Shonsey Beer Can Band” In honor of a great friend Cara Shonsey. Laughs of song filled the bus. Peep Show! Classic great hits like “Born in Cananea” were written. Tabs on beer cans were clinking, cans a’ shaking and coolers a’ drumming. The tunes are classic. I can’t wait till “Classic Hits of the 2000’s” comes out on CD.


Like a tracing shooting star we buzzed around in a big o’ bus. We watched as valley’s, dried up rivers and towns went racing by. I won’t forget the towns we did stop in only to be welcomed by the mayor and end up playing football against los ninos. Purified water followed our every move. I really enjoyed the party that the mayor threw for us where we where the only ones invited. Except, when he showed up with his truck blaring reggaeton music.  Las aguas calientes, what a cool place. Las aquas calientes are natural hot springs with built in pools and a rustic feel. Could there be some sort of ecotourism to generate an economy? Watch out! One bite of a chili pepper can be instant torture.


Far north of the state and almost to the U.S. border lays the almighty Cananea. Really cool recreational facilities. It is highly recommended to watch the videos. There are two really good films made about Cananea.  The wealth of the land is quarried from a big massive pit. The Cananea mine will make you tremble with its grandness and strength. The wave of the future in industry is upon us. No just kidding. Just a massive open pit mine. Colossal earthmover trucks looked like ants as we learned about operations from the look out hill. All these trucks are guided by GPS from the hill. Vast processing buildings trailed off to stamp sand piles and then to stamp sand lake. Close to 70% of water used in the mine is reclaimed. The rest makes quite a huge lake. Anybody up for a swim? We happened to be in town during May 5th, but that didn’t mean anything really. A local fair was more exciting. Especially when there is Tecate and driving involved. The way to blend in is to hacky-sack endlessly all night long in the central square. The great people couldn’t even tell we were gringos.


Back on the road from the mine we had a night’s rest back in Hermosillo. Also a night out! The tranquil evening was the last for a few of us. So we had a big feast at a sushi house. Sushi? Philadelphia cream cheese was used in every sushi ordered. This caused quite a different taste than real traditional Japanese sushi. A club we went to that night consisted of more of the irregular reggaeton beat and ear-piercing sheering karaoke music. It was fun, a classic spot for a little taste of the night life.


Sunday, the last full day was spent traveling to the beach. Which way is the beach? Duh, Duh. After an hour of paved roads then an hour on gravel we arrived at the Seri Indian village. The village resembled a haggard and burnt-out camp. The energy level could be compared to the last day of a week long hippie fest. Trash was overtaking the dust. The village now has water trucked in to fill tanks. The Seri village’s 2000 tribal members are descendants from the once prosperous Indians whom used to occupy virtually the whole coast line. The reptiles and aquatic animals are highly resembled in their culture and religion. They make the most remarkable ironwood carvings and embodied basketry. The Seri are the respected gates keepers for the Guardian Angel and Tiburon Islands which lie in the middle of the Sea of Cortez. After two hours of conversation and bombardment by jewelry sellers, we left for Bahia Kino. After a swim in the sea we drove back to the city. The night and following morning was filled with good byes as we all set off home.