Querétaro, Qro., The privatization of the drinking water service advances in the municipalities of Querétaro, Corregidora and El Marqués. Real estate developers have established in recent years 22 operating agencies for the provision of drinking water, sewerage, and sanitation services (Opsa), a figure through which they commercialize the liquid property of the nation with or without a concession from the National Water Commission ( Conagua) since they are linked to politicians and officials who, through legal tricks, grant them the distribution.
The number and names reported by both the State Water Commission (CEA) and Conagua are not the same. Through a request for public information, the first answered that there are 14 and the second, 16. When reviewing the 10 recent years of municipal gazettes, the official newspaper La Sombra de Arteaga, and the database of the Public Registry of Water Rights (Repda ), it was detected that the Opsa emerged between 1995 and 2020.
Unlike the municipalities, which have public bodies that operate drinking water, in Querétaro, only San Juan del Río has a board that is in charge of this service, but not the remaining 17, which has been taken advantage of by real estate investors.
In addition, 45 percent of the Opsa were constituted irregularly because they do not have a national water extraction title, and the basin from which they obtain it is unknown; 55 percent have a Conagua concession.
The only beneficiaries of the privatization of the service are real estate developers because apart from the collection of water, they obtain condonations in the payment of taxes and construction authorizations without fulfilling all the requirements, which leaves users in limbo because the authorities demarcate them of any administrative, civil or criminal liability for the liquid distribution service.
An example is the Independent Operating Body of the Polo & Ski Fractionation Water Supply and Treatment System, which emerged to provide service to the housing complex of the same name.
The CEA granted the feasibility of providing hydraulic infrastructure on a conditional basis when the construction of the real estate development began in 2011, but three years later, together with the municipal government of El Marqués, it declared itself incompetent to guarantee the infrastructure. With this justification and that the company had expanded its corporate purpose to supply the service, the OPSA was established.
Polo y Ski, SA de CV, whose main shareholder is Mario Calzada Mercado, cousin of former governor José Eduardo Calzada Rovirosa and former municipal president of El Marqués, emerged as a commercial company in 2010. Two years later the council authorized the execution license, the subdivision project, the nomenclature of roads and provisional sale of lots of the residential and commercial subdivision, in the property located on the El Paraíso-Chichimequillas state highway. In total there were 397 single-family properties in an area of 690 thousand 482 square meters, authorized through the renewal of a feasibility permit granted by the CEA, but for 416 and whose validity was already expired.
In September 2015, during the administration of Enrique Vega Carriles (2012-2015), the council approved that Polo & Ski SA de CV would be constituted as Opsa to operate in the 690 thousand 482 square meter polygon and that it would be in charge of the water supply potable after that company expanded its corporate purpose to commercially provide the liquid supply and operate through a subsidiary or subcontracted companies and with the use of underground water wells.
Three years later, it issued another agreement in the official newspaper with similar characteristics, which indicates that the company already has water use and exploitation concession title granted by Conagua, which covers a volume of 240 thousand cubic meters per year. but that this agreement will be subject to the uses and volumes that “are authorized by the authorities” in favor of the company Polo & Ski SA de CV.
In the agreement, the council disclaimed all responsibility “against users or third parties, whether of a fiscal, civil, labor or administrative nature or of any other nature”, in the event that Polo & Ski fails to comply with its responsibility, a practice that was detected in the authorizations for other Opsa.
There is no concession in the Repda in the name of Polo & Ski. The CEA and Conagua also do not mention it as Opsa in the response to a request for information.
In Querétaro there is no state law that regulates the water supply; For this reason, the proliferation of Opsa creates a framework of illegality, said Claudia Elvira Romero Herrera, a member of the Bajo Tierra Museo del Agua organization, because “extracts are being taken from all laws, including the National Water Law and the Urban Code, and suddenly a municipal regulation comes out, but it is not very solid ”in legal terms; furthermore, users are left in limbo, because “no one reaches out (for them) because it is a matter between individuals”.
In 26 years, Conagua has granted 7,817 different types of concessions in Querétaro, according to the Repda.