H2-Oh No! Mexico's Water Woes and the Race to Find Solutions

Mexico's dams are drying up, rain is scarce, and scorching temperatures are the new normal. Scientists warn of a looming water crisis with severe consequences for agriculture, industry, and everyday life.

H2-Oh No! Mexico's Water Woes and the Race to Find Solutions
When the rains don't come: Mexico's agricultural sector feels the pinch of water shortages.

The existing dams in six of the 13 hydrological-administrative regions of the country today have water storage levels of less than 50 percent of their maximum capacity: between 28 and 46 percent, in addition to the fact that another three of them have levels of between 53 and 59 percent storage, said the head of the University Coordination for Sustainability, Eduardo Vega López.

On the occasion of World Water Day, which is commemorated today, he expressed: “According to official information, historical records of rainfall document that, in 25 of the 32 states of the country, the volume of accumulated rain in 2023 was significantly lower than the annual average of the previous 82 years.”

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

Likewise, he considered that the evidence about the growing lack of liquid in several regions, cities, and municipalities of the nation is undeniable. Furthermore, 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 the hydraulic infrastructure and management.

In turn, the coordinator of the University Seminar on Society, Environment and Institutions, Marisa Mazari Hiriart, assured that water is an unequal resource, since its availability depends on natural ecosystems. She “Actions such as deforestation, plant loss and habitat fragmentation affect her.”

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, she said.

They are of a basic type that support hydrological dynamics; that is, the water cycle and purification (which leads us to have a liquid of a certain quality), added the researcher at the National Laboratory of Sustainability Sciences, attached to the Institute of Ecology.

The scientist recommended the use of a new generation of treatment plants, smaller and more efficient, which produce residual sludge and are capable of reusing it.

Mazari Hiriart estimated that more investment is needed and understanding that, with the inadequate use we make, we are transforming a renewable resource into a non-renewable one.

According to the head of the UNAM Water Network and member of the Regional Center for Water Security attached to UNESCO, Fernando González Villarreal, the National University participates in the regional process towards the World Water Forum, to be held 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 waste treatment (less than 50 percent) and water bodies contaminated by more than 60 percent, in addition to the fact that the effects of climate change are intensifying with more hurricanes, droughts, and a reduction of at least 10 percent of the rainfall,” he noted.

González Villarreal pointed out 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 suggested investing in specialized infrastructure to detect and fix them.

Water crisis strains nations

Before the situation becomes more dangerous due to insufficiency, it is necessary to take more energetic actions and programs with greater efficiency that address the emergency, assuming collective commitments, emphasized the researcher and head of the Department of Dissemination of the Institute of Ecology of the UNAM, Gabriela Jiménez Casas.

Media campaigns must be resumed, to make people aware of the seriousness of the problem and so that the world is clear that the situation is serious, she said.

The recycling and proper management of garbage should also be considered to avoid contamination of groundwater; the collection of rainwater or the use and treatment of wastewater with the aim of preventing large industries from using potable water in their production processes, she declared.

It should be noted that with a call to raise awareness about the water crisis facing the planet and the critical situation that millions of people are experiencing due to the limitation of liquid, today, March 22, marks World Water Day, whose motto is Water for Life. Peace; This is an initiative of the United Nations (UN), which was established in 1993 on the occasion of the Conference on Environment and Development.

In this context, Jiménez Casas stressed that we are far from meeting the Sustainable Development Goals proposed by that international organization for the 2030 Agenda, since a difficult situation has been generated where liquid can become a determining factor for peace. .

For the expert, universities have a determining role in the process of raising society's awareness of the problem, and the enthusiasm of young people who have a lot to say and contribute must be taken advantage of to generate innovative proposals and creative solutions.

One of the battles that must be fought, starting from these study houses, is to be heard by the rulers with clear and effective proposals applicable by the countries for a global solution.

According to UN data, well over 3 billion people on the planet depend on water that crosses national borders. However, only 24 nations have cooperative agreements for their shared water resources.

As the impacts of climate change increase and the population grows, there is a pressing need to come together to protect and conserve the most precious element.