Unequal Access to Water Threatens Mexico’s Poorest RegionsBy Rodrigo Brugada | Thu, 05/13/2021 - 20:50
The widespread drought Mexico is currently experiencing might strain water availability for drinking, farming and irrigation throughout the country. However, gaps in water supply only reflect other types of inequality the population faces.
Every year, the world experiences more and more extreme events intrinsically linked to the climate crisis, be it record temperatures in both summer and winter, more frequent and stronger hurricanes or droughts as the one Mexico is experiencing now. Earlier this year, NASA released a comparative image that shows the reduction in water levels in the Villa Victoria reservoir between 2020 and 2021. To explain the image, NASA stated that Mexico is undergoing one of its most widespread and intense droughts in decades. In Apr. 15, 2021, nearly 85 percent of the country was facing drought conditions. The drought comes as part of La Niña phenomenon, which has disproportionately impacted northern states. Among the most impacted is Tamaulipas, which had to deal with the drought simultaneously as a dam broke, allowing for the mixing of seawater and freshwater, as reported by El Sol de Tampico.
The director of the National Water Commission (CONAGUA), Blanca Jimenez Cisneros, said that 58 of the 210 main dams in the country are at 20 percent of their total storage capacity due to the drought, as reported by Milenio. With these large reservoirs standing at low levels, there is the possibility for a strain in the water availability for drinking, farming and irrigation. While Jimenez Cisneros has assured that cautionary measures are in place to ensure adequate supply for city supply, there is still a substantial risk for the agricultural sector.
Mexico City and the Metropolitan Zone of the Valley of Mexico (ZMVM) are in a tough spot. As reported by El Universal, one of the ZMVM central supplying systems, the Cutzamala System, is now 20 percent emptier than its historical average. Because of this decrease in water level, local authorities have decided to reduce output starting May 16, as reported by Animal Politico. This decrease will affect 12 townships in Mexico City and 13 municipalities in the State of Mexico.
Unequal water supply mimics other types of inequality. Oxfam stated that around 70 percent of Mexico City’s population receives less than 12 continuous hours of water supply a day. This inequality intersects with other vulnerabilities and supply cuts are more common in the poor areas of the city, as is the case in Iztapalapa. At the same time, it is rare for the city’s affluent areas to undergo hydric stress.
While the current water supply problem was aggravated by the drought, it is by no means a new issue. As reported by journalist Carmen Aristegui last year, there is extreme inequality in access to water. This inequality sparked concern regarding hand-washing during the COVID-19 pandemic as many communities had no water to begin with. During the same period, Infobae reported that in Guerrero less than 6 percent of the population had daily access to water, while in Chiapas and Oaxaca coverage was less than 20 percent. It is essential to consider these inequalities, as these communities will probably be the most impacted by the coming changes.