More than 45 years of experience

Watershed management Río Lerma in the valley of Toluca

Project details
Water & Sanitation
Project volume: 
1,581,934 €
Value of services: 
1,581,934 €
Start of project: 
May, 2002
End of project: 
January, 2008
Project description: 

The watershed of the aquifer in Toluca Valley is located in the upper reaches of the Lerma River in the federal state of Mexico and covers 23 municipalities with about 2 million inhabitants and 10 industrial zones on an area of 2,738 km². Due to excessive groundwater extraction in Toluca Valley, in particular for potable water (about 80% of extraction, 60% thereof for Mexico City), the groundwater level has dropped sharply and continues to decline by more than 1 m a year on average.

Deforestation of the main percolation areas on the mountain slopes and the shift in land use have raised surface runoff, which causes pronounced erosion and impairs natural groundwater replenishment, thus aggravating the situation. Furthermore, untreated wastewater and uncontrolled dumping of refuse pollutes surface water and groundwater

Service description: 
  • Slowing down the lowering of the static groundwater level;
  • Strengthening institutional co-operation;
  • Strengthening the professional competence and organisational structure of the user groups;
  • Installation of an information system for integrated groundwater management;
  • Development and usage of instruments for groundwater protection (among others directive on the protection of groundwater) in co-operation with the management committee on groundwater (COTAS) and the regional CNA;
  • Exchange of information and experience between the COTAS of the Lerma-Chapala watershed;
  • Public awareness and education activities, sensitization through media and schools;
  • Setting up of a network of environmental speakers in the state authorities, municipalities and water supply companies to publicise relevant environmental issues and implement measures to protect and rehabilitate the aquifer;
  • Assisting CONAGUA in improving their knowledge of the aquifer and their technical instruments for aquifer management planning incl. the registration of landfill sites, improvement of the groundwater simulation model, establishment of a water balance of the aquifer, design of groundwater protection zones in the main recharge areas, development of a Geographical Information System;
  • Implementation of pilot demonstration projects on rational use of water and appropriate wastewater management in selected municipalities, incl. rainwater harvesting and awareness campaigns on the need to reduce water consumption and pay for water;
  • Drafting a guideline for preparation of an integrated watershed management plan;
  • Preparation of a regulation for the aquifer; and
  • Participatory planning and implementation (with COTAS, CONAGUA, GTCI and the municipalities) of relevant watershed management measures, and their combination in an Integrated Water Resources Management Plan for the Valley of Toluca.

The overall project goal was to achieve a sustainable management of the aquifer in the valley of Toluca in close cooperation with the Mexico state office of the National Water Commission (Comisión Nacional del Agua, CONAGUA) and the water users, as stipulated in the Mexican Water Act. According to this Act the water users should be involved in water resources management through active participation in watershed committees. The project responded to this by assisting CONAGUA in involving the water users in the valley of Toluca (i.e. those holding a licence to extract groundwater, like municipal water supply utilities, farmers, industry) at the planning and decision-making stage and striking a balance of interests for sustainable water management.   



  • Mobilisation of the different user groups and foundation of an autonomous organisation of groundwater users, the Technical Groundwater Committee (Comité Técnico de Aguas Subterráneas – COTAS);
  • Foundation of the Inter-institutional Technical Consultative Group (Grupo Técnico Consultivo Interinstitucional);
  • Drafting of a land register of landfill sites incl. risk assessment, diagnosis of environmental conditions affecting water and establishment of the working foundation in the shape of a GIS;
  • Detailed gender analysis of the social structures and the traditional forms of organisation in the water sector in the project area and selective pilot support of local women's groups;
  • Participatory development and establishment of communication mechanisms with and amongst stakeholders;
  • Levelling out of knowledge amongst stakeholders and preparation of an initial version of the management plan;
  • Raised awareness in the municipal council of a pilot community (10,000 inhabitants) of its demonstrational role and support of the pilot project for using rainwater for sanitation in a school and running joint campaigns for improving payment discipline in the water sector and installing water meters in private households; and
  • Setting up a network of those responsible for public relations in the federal state authorities, municipalities and water suppliers to publicize relevant environmental issues and implement measures to protect and rehabilitate the aquifer.