The Mexican north and northwest are facing a severe drought that might not abate until late 2022, warns the National Water Commission (CONAGUA). The commission’s Drought Monitor reports that 72.58 percent of Mexican territory is showing signs of drought, which ranges from mild to severe. This percentage is slightly lower that 15 days ago, when CONAGUA indicated that 77.68 percent of the country was suffering droughts.
CONAGUA’s report follows various drought indicators such as the Standardized Precipitation Index (SPI), which measures the deficit or excess of precipitation. One of the main reasons for this drought is the “La Niña” phenomenon during which the sea surface temperature across the Pacific Ocean is lower than usual, causing diverse weather effects around the globe, according to The World Economic Forum.
“The presence of an anticyclonic system that moved along the northwest, north and northeast, favored temperatures above 40.0 °C and a stable environment, conditions that caused... the increase in extreme drought in Baja California Sur, southern Sonora and northern Chihuahua,” said CONAGUA in the report.
The drought that the country is facing is climatologically strange, said Christian Domínguez Sarmiento, Researcher, Institute of Atmospheric Sciences and Climate Change, UNAM: “Climatologically, this is very rare; we had more than 20 years without such a prolonged phenomenon. This impacts water availability in the north and changes wind and rainfall patterns worldwide.”
The CONAGUA report also points to 20.8 percent less rainfall in Mexico between Oct. 1, 2021, and May 29, 2022, when compared to the historical average for the same period. “With less rainfall, radiation enters directly into Mexican territory and causes water to evaporate, which lowers the dams water levels,” said Domínguez.
Mexico’s northern states are currently the most affected by this drought due to the high levels of radiation entering this territory. Coahuila, Chihuahua, Aguascalientes and Sonora are facing a drought in 100 percent of their territory.
Mexico is facing a complex situation as it has insufficient policies to protect water, said Leticia Merino Pérez, University Coordinator for Sustainability, UNAM. The country’s concession system of the National Water Law has allowed more water to be licensed than is available in many watersheds, she added. Besides this, it is estimated that eight persons own 80 percent of the concessioned water, limiting access to this essential resource.