Otay Water District Suspends Plan to Use Desalinated Water from Mexico

"There is no interest or plan to export water to the U.S.," Mexican officials said

A multi-million dollar pipeline project intended to bring desalinated water from Mexico to Otay Mesa is off the table indefinitely after years of planning.

The Otay Water District began environmental reviews in 2010 on a plan to build a 3.5 mile pipeline to transport desalinated water from a new plant in Rosarito, Mexico to its reservoir in Otay Mesa.

The district received a crucial permit from the U.S. government in May, allowing it to build the cross-border pipeline.

NBC 7 first reported on the project in February.

The goal was to begin construction on the pipeline within three years and put the desalinated water into the drinking water supply in about six years.

However, a staff report from a Dec. 6 meeting of the Otay Water District Desalination Project Committee noted repeated delays in funding for the plant, which has yet to be built.

NBC 7 and Telemundo 20 contacted the Secretary General's office in Baja, California, and learned Mexico has no intention of selling the desalinated water to the U.S.

A spokesperson shared a statement from Francisco Rueda Gómez, the Secretary General of Baja California.

"There is no interest or plan to export water to the U.S. There are plans for the water to serve the community for the next 50 years. The water produced will be exclusively for Baja Californians and whoever is saying otherwise, is a lie."

The Otay Water District has already spent $4.1 million on the pipeline project, mostly for environmental reviews. It had set aside $6.5 million.

The Dec. 6 committee report stated: "Staff has stopped all activities concerning this Project. All expenditures will be suspended until more progress is made in Mexico on the project."

A link on the Otay Water District's website detailing the pipeline project has been taken down. A spokesperson said it is revising the content.

The water district began looking into potential desalination sites in Mexico in 2005, as an option to diversify its water supply.

But with leadership changes in both Mexico and the U.S., along with an impending border wall, a cross-border pipeline could be stalled permanently.

The Otay Water District serves about 222,000 customers.

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