Field Projects

Soil Conservation and Restoration for the Aquifer Recharge in Hidalgo

Recharging an acuifer through reforestation and conservation efforts of soil and water bodies is not an easy task; it involves thousands of hours of work in giant extensions of land. Together with Grupo Modelo, we are operating a project that seeks to recharge 1.3 million cubic meters of water per year to one of the most important aquifers in Mexico.

Basic information

  • Project located in the pulque plateau in Apan, Hidalgo
  • 90% of jobs are for local people
  • Up to 70 people working in the field
  • Construction of soil retention works
  • 235 hectares of reforestation with native species

Project Overview

The main ingredient of this nature-based solution is rain. Rainwater that falls on a slope can evaporate, run off or infiltrate the ground. When it infiltrates the subsoil, it can recharge a water table and maintain the water needs of huge populations. The objective of this program is to increase the infiltration and reduce the runoff of rainwater that falls in the Apan Valley, part of the Pulquera Highlands. What we are doing is reforesting and improving the health of the ecosystem in the aquifer zone. The program includes the planting of more than 250,000 specimens of maguey, nopal, sabino, encino, and pine. In addition, we will place 12 gabion dams to prevent erosion and more than 9 kilometers of stone barriers arranged in contours to prevent soil runoff.

Details

What is a water compensation project?

Water compensation projects consist of returning part or all of the water used in municipal, civil or industrial operations to the aquifers. They usually occur in areas of a few thousand hectares and include reforestation and other soil conservation works.

Reforestations

The program contemplates 235 hectares of reforestation. We will only use local species such as juniper, ocote–and of course–nopal and maguey. In total, more than 250,000 plants will be planted. Reforestation is important to fight the climate crisis, and one of the reasons is that trees are great water catchers. When it rains on the bare ground the water can evaporate or run off, but when it rains on a tree the water infiltrates into the ground and can reach the aquifers. In addition, reforestations work very well to prevent soil erosion and generate ecosystems full of flora and fauna. The species used for restoration in the program are timber and non-timber. For example, in terms of timber, we have Pinus Greggii, Juniperus deppeana Steud. Some of the non-timber products are Agave salmeana, Otto ex Salm, Agave lechuguilla Torr., Opuntia streptacantha Lem., among others.

Gabion Dams and Accommodated Stone Barriers

When rainwater hits the surface of a degraded soil, a small portion of the soil is loosened and is then susceptible to being blown away by a gust of wind or runoff. This, on a large scale, causes the erosion of thousands of hectares each year. Soil conservation works consist of mitigating the conditions that cause erosion by placing stone barriers or other materials at strategic points on the land. The idea is to reduce the speed of water dragging so that it carries with it the least amount of soil, as well as to retain the soil that has been dragged. These works are essential to prevent erosion in degraded soils that are being restored. Rehabilitating these hectares will increase the capture of water for the subsoil and enrich the ecosystem of the area in general.

Workshops and courses

As part of the aquifer recharge program, it is important to generate social alliances that promote the exchange of knowledge. We are giving workshops and courses on topics such as silvopastoral systems, agroforestry, traditional herbalism, and nursery construction. This allows the local population to gain the necessary knowledge to increase the value of the production of their plots. In 2020 alone, 42 training sessions were held.

Problems of the area

Deforestation within the project area has caused a greater and constant dragging of solid materials, hindering the circulation of water currents. Consequently, it has decreased them, in addition to contributing to an evident increase in water and wind erosion and a loss in soil fertility.

Natural conditions

Due to the topographic, geomorphological, climatic and anthropogenic conditions, this region presents the following types of vegetation (shown in descending order from largest to smallest area): Agricultural-livestock and forest, xerophilous scrub, grassland, pine forest, táscate forest, oak forest, fir forest and pine-oak forest. However, agriculture is characterized by being seasonal, with surfaces planted in a homogeneous way by a crop whose growth depends on rainwater. The agricultural area is distributed throughout the region. Livestock, mainly bovine and goat cattle, is itinerant and, in the smallest of cases, semi-stall.

Achievements

Some of the achievements of the program are the following: infiltrate water into the APAN 1320 aquifer, reduce susceptibility to natural disturbances, facilitate the movement of flora and fauna species (avoiding their isolation), prevent the disappearance of sites for the reproduction and feeding of species, favor the permanence of species of interest, maintain population genetic variability, and maintain habitat functionalility. As relevant data for cumulative knowledge, we have obtained three new records of snakes in the region. Finally, of the 53 sampling sites to evaluate the plant survival of the 2020 reforestations, we obtained a 98% survival rate.

Benefits

With the actions carried out, the water resource will once again be infiltrated into the subsoil and the water tables, in order to generate better conditions for the soil and vegetation. It is important to emphasize that the income generated from hiring personnel to carry out these activities remains within the ejidos involved, because such personnel must be resident of the ejido where the work is undertaken. In addition, to ensure the region's water supply, the program is designed for the benefit of the communities that make up the micro-basin, from an economic, environmental and socially just point of view.

Geographical location