By Zara Gounden, Circle of Blue – February 7, 2024
Serious drought and poor water management in Mexico is forcing millions of people all over the country to ration or recycle water for drinking and bathing. Of the country’s 32 states, 30 are experiencing dire water shortages, leading to big street protests.
Though access to water is a constitutional right in Mexico, an estimated 57 percent of the population lack access to safe water sources. Water scarcity is now a pivotal issue in the presidential election, scheduled for June 2024.
Leading presidential candidates Claudia Sheinbaum and Xóchitl Gálvez recognize the gravity of the national water crisis, highlighting it in their campaigns. Sheinbaum, Morena party’s candidate, emphasizes her achievements in water infrastructure projects as Mexico City’s former mayor. Gálvez, part of the Broad Front coalition, has delved into the issue at Senate forums. As water scarcity fuels protests and affects cities like Torreón and San Luís Potosí, Mexico City, and others, the candidates’ proposed solutions have become crucial focal points.
The supply emergency is not solely a consequence of climate change and deforestation, say authorities, but also stems from inadequate urban planning and corruption, enabling companies to take advantage of unrestricted water usage.
Last year President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador encouraged companies to invest in Mexico’s southern regions, asserting that water availability is more limited in the heavily industrialized north. Water scarcity threatens several important economic opportunities for Mexico such as a $5 billion deal with Tesla.
Water insecurity is demonstrated by over-extended distribution infrastructure, such as the Cutzamala system, which transports water from the Cutzamala River to the Mexico City metropolitan area (MCMA) and the Valley of Toluca metropolitan area. The network of canals, tunnels, pipelines, and pumping stations were constructed in the late 1970s to 1994, and support millions of urban residents and thousands of businesses. However, due to water scarcity, the Cutzamala System water reserves have now fallen to the lowest point in 27 years.
Zara is a reporting intern at Circle of Blue. She is a Davis Scholar in her third year at New York University London, majoring in Global Liberal Studies with a concentration in Politics, Rights, and Development.