Water management is not a priority in Mexico

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61.5% of the national territory suffers from droughts that have limited access to water in households in recent weeks.

Water management requires better coordination of authorities at the three levels of government.

Mexico is experiencing a water crisis that, as of January 15, 2024, affects a total of 1,613 municipalities with severe, extreme and exceptional droughts. Some are particularly vulnerable to these changes, especially in the northern and central regions. The increase in droughts is a reflection of the fact that climate change is already impacting the country. The transformation in precipitation patterns is a reality, as is the increase in temperatures; as an example, Mexico has seen an average temperature increase of 1.6 °C in the last 40 years.

The country lacks an adequate institutional framework to face the new reality. For the Mexican Institute for Competitiveness (IMCO), the first link is to modernize the regulation in the matter to promote greater coordination among actors, as well as to facilitate investment and maintenance of water infrastructure and, in general terms, to improve water management in Mexico.

Decision-making in the water sector is fragmented among public actors – at the three levels of government – and private actors with different interests and responsibilities. For example, there are currently 2,826 water operators – the municipal authorities in charge of water supply, sewerage, treatment and disposal of wastewater – at the national level.

At the same time, water infrastructure, from dams to pipes and sewerage, is obsolete and presents deficiencies to the detriment of proper water management. A window of opportunity is in the Congress of the Union, which has pending to rule and approve the new General Water Law. In February 2012, human rights to access to water and sanitation were elevated to constitutional rank by reforming the sixth paragraph of article 4°. After its publication in the Official Gazette of the Federation, a period of 360 days was granted for the issuance of a new General Water Law to be implemented from the constitutional reform, thus replacing the National Water Law of 1992.

The average availability of water per person in Mexico has decreased steadily in recent decades, as a result of population growth, poor management and growth in agricultural production, among other factors. In 1960, availability amounted to 10 thousand cubic meters (m3), while by the year 2000 it had been reduced to 4 thousand m3. Currently, it stands at 3.2 thousand m3 and if the trend continues, it is estimated that by 2030 it will be below 3 thousand m3, as the population, droughts and overexploitation increase.

In view of the presidential election in June, it is urgent that the political platforms of the candidates address the water problem seriously. The water crisis of the last few weeks should be understood as a call to action to modernize the management of water resources in the country. For this reason, IMCO proposes:

To guarantee, through the Federal Expenditure Budget, which is approved every year by the Congress of the Union, sufficient resources for CONAGUA to invest in technology and human resources to develop a robust and reliable water resources information system.

To adjust the volumes, open to concession for surface or groundwater extraction through the policies of CONAGUA and the Congress of the Union, so that they are in line with the environmentally sustainable annual availability.

To make the measurement of concessions mandatory by CONAGUA and the Congress of the Union for all sectors.

Source: IMCO.org