Despite COVID-19, Mexico desalination projects move forward


The coronavirus pandemic has not altered plans to construct four desalination plants in Mexico’s northeast, a region with long-running drought problems. 

The plants are for the cities of La Paz and Los Cabos in Baja California Sur state, Playas de Rosarito in Baja California state and Puerto Peñasco in Sonora state.

At a combined investment of 12.8bn pesos (US$555mn), the projects were unveiled in November when the government and the private sector presented the first stage of the 2020-21 national infrastructure program (PNI).

Desalination plantStateCapexStart date 
Playas de RosaritoBaja California10.6bn pesos2020
La PazBaja California Sur891mn pesos2021
Los CabosBaja California Sur1.1bn pesos2021
Puerto PeñascoSonora152mn2021

BNamericas takes a look at how the projects have evolved since their announcement. 


The basic engineering design for the desalination plant of La Paz was awarded to Mexican firm CIPRO this month, CIPRO director Manuel Salas Flores told news site Energía Hoy on June 17. 

It is the first step before the pre-investment stage and launching of the construction tender, according to Salas. 

-“CIPRO is responsible for carrying out the engineering designs necessary to obtain potable water from saltwater and the environmental authorization that, altogether, will allow us to evaluate the amount of investment necessary to build the plant and its operation and maintenance costs that will serve to obtain the necessary federal authorizations for infrastructure development,” he said.

The engineering study will help determine the exact location of the plant, as well as the technology that will be used to deliver the necessary amount of water, said Salas.

The desalination plant will pump 200l/s into the city’s urban area and industrial sector during 20 years, according to the government’s Mexico Projects Hub website. 

The plant will be financed by a public-private partnership model. Around 57% of the investment will come from the private sector, while the remainder will be financed by a public trust fund. 

Construction is expected to kick off in the third quarter of 2021, according to PNI’s plan. 


The preliminary construction tender for the Los Cabos plant will be launched on September 30, Christian Agúndez, president of the city’s water commission, told local media on June 11. 

The local government hopes to begin construction in March 2021, Agúndez said.

A couple of days before that announcement, Los Cabos mayor Jesús Armida Castro Guzmán told local media that the plant’s planning never stopped despite the pandemic crisis and that the city aims to complete all necessary studies this year. 

The tender to construct, operate and maintain the plant for 25 years will be launched during this year’s third quarter, according to Mexico Projects Hub.

The plant will provide the city with 250l/s and 58% of its financing will come from the private sector while 42% will come from a public trust fund. 


Construction of the US$453mn desalination plant could finally become a reality this year due to a new ministry to oversee and solve disputes over water projects.

The Baja California senate’s energy and water committee approved in early May the creation of a ministry for water management, sanitation and protection in order to solve long-overdue water problems. 

The initiative, which was proposed by governor Jaime Bonilla Valdez, is expected to help speed up projects such as the Playas de Rosarito desalination plant, which was awarded to concessionaire Aguas de Rosarito more than five years ago.

Monitoreo Económico Baja California reported in mid-May that consolidated water subsidiary NSC Agua, which is part of the three companies that make up the Aguas de Rosarito consortium, would focus its efforts on beginning the plant’s construction this year, with help from the new ministry. 

To be built in two stages, the initiative is not only the most expensive water project in the region, but also the most advanced of all desalination projects under the PNI – and is scheduled for this year.

The first stage involves achieving a desalination capacity of 2.2m3/s, building an aqueduct and expanding the capacity of the associated storage facility to 20,000m3. The second stage will add another 2.2m3/s of desalination capacity and an aqueduct from tank 3 to the El Florido water treatment plant. 

It will supply potable water to the coastal municipalities of Baja California that rely on the Río Colorado-Tijuana aqueduct by taking and treating seawater from the Pacific ocean. When completed, the plant will benefit an estimated 1.7mn of the region’s inhabitants, according to Baja California’s water commission. 

A special purpose vehicle won a 40-year contract to construct and operate the plant under a public-private partnership model back in 2016. The contract outlines three years to design and build the plant and 37 years of operation and maintenance before handing it over to the state.


The fourth desalination plant project is also expected to begin construction this year, although the local government of Puerto Peñasco has not updated the project status since February. 

Puerto Peñasco mayor Ernesto Munro told local media in early February that the US$6.6mn plant would begin construction this year under a PPP model and that the municipal government would allocate 28mn pesos. 

Munro also said he hoped the plant could begin operating by the third quarter of next year. 


The Mazatlan Post