On May 24 2011 significant amendments to the National Water Law were published. Hydroelectric projects with a power generation capacity of up to 30 megawatts do not require a government concession to use water from rivers or channels for electric power production, provided that such use does not divert water flow or affect water quality or volume. A permit from the National Water Commission is the only requirement for constructing facilities for such projects.

On June 16 2011 the commission published a clarification of the criteria for construction permits as follows:

  • Permits for the construction of small-scale hydroelectric projects will be granted by the commission's local office if the curtain of the proposed dam is not more than 10 metres high; otherwise, permits will be granted by the central office.
  • There will be no deemed deviation of water flow where water is permanently discharged, immediately downstream of the relevant facilities, into the body of water from which it was drawn, provided that no water consumers are located between the water inlet and the water outlet.
  • Water volume and quality will be deemed to be unaffected in the following cases:
    • If there is no infrastructure modifying the water flow, the amount of water will be deemed to be unaffected if the average hourly water flow rates are identical at the outlet and the inlet.
    • If the facilities incorporate control infrastructure, such as dams, channels or existing borders of a watercourse, the quantity of water will be deemed to be unaffected if the operation of the hydroelectric plant is subordinated to the total extraction plan by means of an agreement between the concessionaire and the commission.
    • Quality will be deemed to be unaffected if the physical and chemical properties of the water being discharged are unchanged.

The amendments to the law became effective on May 25 2011 and the criteria for construction permits became effective on June 17 2011. These provisions are a big step forward in fostering investments in small-scale hydroelectric projects.

For further information on this topic please contact Rogelio López-Velarde or Ruben Almaraz at López Velarde, Heftye y Soria by telephone (+52 55 3685 3334), fax (+52 55 3685 3399) or email ([email protected] or [email protected]).