Within Mexico exists great biodiversity and natural resources. But with such a high population growth, the availability of water is drastically dropping. According to SEMARNAT, the South of Mexico holds 67 percent of renewable water resources but only 23 percent of the population, making rural water infrastructure a key priority.
With the country’s water resources divided into 13 Hydrological Administrative Regions (HAR) and 653 aquifers, the figures show the country is overexploiting 105 of these. The forecast for this consumption is unsustainable, according to Roberto Olivares, Director General of The National Association of Water and Sanitation Utilities of Mexico (ANEAS). “Mexico must understand that a transcendental solution for water problems concerns breaking the paradigms regarding water culture,” he says.
But with a shrinking budget for water management, Olivares says Mexico’s hands are tied. “Eleven years ago, there was a budget of MX$11 billion for the water sector,” he says. “By 2011, the investment in water management was MX$58 billion, after the World Water Forum highlighted water as a priority. Today, the budget has been cut and barely stretches to MX$23 billion.” CONAGUA has claimed itself unable to continue investing due to the sluggish economic conditions of the country, delegating water responsibility to local governments, which have even lower budget availability to address these problems.
Olivares says the start of a solution would be to ensure water resources are adequately used. “The different uses of water, besides urban purposes, must be addressed though a holistic approach,” he says. “Urban water services represent about 14.6 percent of the total water usage, so we must also consider industrial, agricultural and other applications.” SEMARNAT reports that agriculture is the primary water user in the country. Then, says Olivares, it is key to build adequate infrastructure to make agricultural water use more efficient.
He says it is also key to educate people, but the idea that education will solve all water problems must be shattered. “The belief that by focusing on educating children everything will change is naïve,” he argues. “This approach was implemented during the 1980s but it seems that that generation of children who are now grown-ups did not learn how to properly take care of water resources.” He says water should also be understood outside the concept of it being sustenance and positioned as an economic service.
THE RUNDOWN BY THE NUMBERS: MEXICO CITY
Mexico City is one of the country’s water paradoxes. With a massive population growth, its HAR puts the highest degree of pressure on water resources, according to CONAGUA. With a 101 percent overexploited aquifer and a 138.7 percent water stress level, its citizens have the lowest water availability – an average of 150m3 per year.
To solve this shortage, 40 percent of the city’s water is piped from other aquifers, but another 40 percent is being lost due to leaks given the poor rehabilitation of water infrastructure, reports Circleofblue.org. Also, The Guardian ranks the city as the 8th in the world to be most likely to follow Cape Town in approaching “Day Zero.”
Mexico is one of the main water basins but is natural availability of 447.26 km3 on average per year will drain at its currents consumption. In striving to find a sustainable balance for the stress put on HAR’s, organizations such as The Nature Conservancy (TNC) bet on water funds. Their main objective is to invest in the preservation of the upper watershed ecosystem, and groundwater infiltration areas to guarantee the quality and quantity of the water supply, explains Waterfunds.org
“Drinking water supplies are greatly affected by how land is managed,” says TNC. “Practices that clear forests, increase erosion and create pollution reduce both water quality and reliability.” As a result, watersheds are degraded. Nuevo León State pioneered with The Monterrey Water Fund (FAMM). The fund endeavors to pay for environmental services, education, research and to fund urban riparian restoration, among other activities. Still relatively new, if successful, other states may turn to water funds to cover their water deficits.