Experts Chart Solutions for Mexico's Water Crisis

Mexico faces a dire water crisis. Dwindling rainfall, rising temperatures, and strained infrastructure threaten the future. Experts call for urgent action, including investment in technology, ecosystem restoration, and a cultural shift in how water is valued and used.

Experts Chart Solutions for Mexico's Water Crisis
Investing in new technologies is key to addressing Mexico's water crisis.

Facing the water crisis in Mexico requires the combined efforts of all sectors of society to have adequate technical diagnoses, sufficient and sustained economic investment in the long term, implementation of new technologies and citizen awareness to take care of the vital liquid, UNAM experts agreed.

In a media conference, regarding World Water Day, which will be commemorated on March 22, the head of the University Coordination for Sustainability, Eduardo Vega López, pointed out that the evidence about the growing shortage of the liquid in various regions, cities, and municipalities of the nation.

“According to official information, historical rainfall records document that, in 25 of the country's 32 states, the volume of accumulated rain in 2023 was significantly lower than the annual average of the previous 82 years,” he highlighted.

Simultaneously, the high temperatures and heat waves experienced last year mean that 2023 has been the warmest in the previous 70 years: 31 of the 32 states had the highest average annual temperature since 1953.

Meanwhile, the existing dams in six of the 13 hydrological-administrative regions of the country today have water storage levels below 50 percent of their maximum capacity: between 28 and 46 percent, in addition to three other of them having levels between 53 and 59 percent water storage, he said.

Vega López considered that policies cannot be postponed to resolve water insecurity with its adverse connotations on social well-being and the dynamics of economic activities, through the conservation and comprehensive management of basins and hydrological systems, as well as the improvement and renewal of hydraulic infrastructure and management.

Meanwhile, the coordinator of the University Seminar on Society, Environment, and Institutions and researcher at the National Laboratory of Sustainability Sciences, attached to the Institute of Ecology, Marisa Mazari Hiriart, expressed: water is an unequal resource, since its availability depends on natural ecosystems. “It is affected by actions such as deforestation, plant loss and habitat fragmentation.”

She added that the ecosystem services provided by areas rich in this resource are: provision for human consumption for domestic use, for agricultural and livestock activities necessary for a growing population that requires food; control of water erosion, eutrophication and silting of water bodies and infiltration into underground systems. “They are basic services that support hydrological dynamics; that is, the water cycle and purification (which leads us to have water of a certain quality).”

The scientist commented that greater coordination is needed between the Secretariats of the Environment and Natural Resources and the Secretariat of Health to address the issues of disposal and quality of the element, since currently the waste is going to bodies that are sources of supply and contaminate seriously the liquid. She recommended the use of a new generation of treatment plants, smaller and more efficient, which generate waste sludge and are capable of reusing it.

Mazari Hiriart stressed that in the past five years the drought has worsened. “It is necessary to treat and reuse water, there is nothing more. More investment is needed, and we need to understand that, with the inadequate use we make of water, we are turning a renewable resource into a non-renewable one.”

On the occasion, the head of the UNAM Water Network and member of the Regional Center for Water Security attached to UNESCO, Fernando González Villarreal, explained that the National University participates in the regional process towards the World Water Forum, to be developed next May.

“There are four factors that we must consider: it is highly probable that we will not meet the goals established in the Sustainable Development Goals for 2030; we have high levels of coverage, but intermittent water services; low levels of wastewater treatment (less than 50 percent) and water bodies contaminated by more than 60 percent, in addition to the effects of climate change intensifying with more hurricanes, droughts, and a reduction of at least 10 percent of the rainfall,” he noted.

González Villarreal said that to take care of the problem in the Valley of Mexico (one of the regions with the greatest impact and the most populated in the country) requires leadership, governance (authority with technical and administrative autonomy), a financial system that allows for 97 billion additional pesos for the next 15 years and actions such as rehabilitating and replacing basic infrastructure, including green infrastructure.

To repair leaks in the country's cities (which account for up to 40 percent of the supply), he recommended investing in specialized infrastructure to detect and fix them.

He reported that the National University prepared two diagnoses with proposed solutions, called “Agreement for Water Security in the Valley of Mexico” and “Water Perspectives in Mexico, proposals towards water security.”