Drinking water conservation requires greater investment

The water crisis has worsened in Mexico. The availability of freshwater in the country is 451 billion cubic meters. The largest use is in the agricultural sector. Redistribution of access to this natural resource and a paradigm shift from watershed preservation and restoration is needed.

Drinking water conservation requires greater investment
More money needs to be put on preserving our supply of potable water. Photo by LuAnn Hunt / Unsplash

The main issues linked with drinking water consumption include contamination, unequal distribution, a lack of management, and overexploitation. As in Monterrey, the north of the country is undoubtedly one of the most hit regions.

In general, public investment in water resource protection does not reflect the equivalent of remediation or the resources required to continue enjoying it; there is a public investment deficit in this sector.

The water situation has increased in the country and, coupled with climate change, has exacerbated agricultural challenges worldwide, notably food security in less developed countries like ours, where producers of essential cereals like corn are very exposed to changes in the global environment.

The rise in global temperatures will prevent us from having food; the issue is what we will eat in the medium and long run because everything we consume is derived from water and soil.

Erosion affects the entire region, which is why a policy focused on resolving these issues that are critical in the production and delivery of commodities is urgently needed. Although Mexico is a diverse country, it faces challenges linked to food supply and, in particular, the water resource required to produce it.

The economic and health crises have resulted in significant increases in poverty and extreme poverty; limited access to health care is related to food and the equity of water services; however, food shortages have also increased during this time due to price increases in the main products of the basic food basket.

Water collection is insufficient

Mexico has 451 billion cubic meters of fresh water available; its primary use is in agriculture, though urban public use is also significant. However, there is a significant shortage of wastewater treatment plants.

The collection by administrative hydrological regions clearly shows that a large portion is subsidized and does not represent the true cost of conserving the resource or remediating what is implied by the discharges of each of the economic activities that require the use of water to dispose of this resource; that is, there is a deficit of public investment in this area.

Despite its high water availability, Copalita experiences differentiated use in some parts, a lack of infrastructure, storms and earthquakes that harm the region, and a trend toward decreasing water availability in the future.

Changes in rainfall and temperature have impacted the availability of ecosystem services in the area, as well as coffee output, over the last 30 years. According to the estimate, by 2039, there would be a rise in temperature of up to three degrees Celsius and a decrease in precipitation of up to 20% (600 milliliters). In addition to a 9 to 24 percent decrease in surface water, there is a 20% loss in vegetation's ability to retain sediments.

Access to drinking water on an equitable basis

Mexico exports products that require a lot of water to make, such as soft drinks and breweries. In the instance of Monterrey, Nuevo León, for example, they are created, particularly in an arid region where the population requires water resources.

It is the country's second most important economic metropolis, accounting for 7.8 percent of the national gross domestic product in 2021. As a result, it is an important state in terms of industrial production because it is home to major national and global corporations.

In truth, we find a lack of governmental policy in the face of a structural problem that has existed in the country for numerous years, notably in the northeast. It is necessary to propose a redistribution of water access and a paradigm shift based on a focus on watershed conservation and restoration, including the participation of women, indigenous peoples, children, and the most marginalized communities, who are generally left out of the debate over water grabbing.

Later, in 2012, the human right to water was established in Article IV of the Mexican Constitution; however, the National Water Law, despite being based on Article 17 of the Mexican Constitution, does not recognize this particular guarantee. This act, drafted in 1992 in the context of the signing of the North American Free Trade Agreement, views water resources as a commodity rather than a fundamental right.

According to the aforementioned Law, the National Water Commission is in control of the country's concessions, and since 1993, 514,684 authorizations have been awarded in a scheme of significant inequity, because 7% of concessionaires have 70% of the volume of adjudicated water.