How Water Poverty Affects Mexico's Wallets

Water Poverty (WP) and Multidimensional Poverty in Mexico pose significant challenges for sustainable development. Combining indices like WPI and HPI can guide policies to ensure equitable water access, human development, and improved quality of life for all citizens.

How Water Poverty Affects Mexico's Wallets
Community-led initiatives promoting sustainable water management and development – a step towards combating Multidimensional Poverty in Mexico. Image by Jonas KIM from Pixabay

Over the past three decades, the issue of sustainable development and poverty, particularly in relation to water, has posed an ongoing challenge for both developed and developing nations. A complex phenomenon known as Water Poverty (WP) has emerged, impacting countries and households alike. The concept of Water Poverty considers various factors, including demographics, water availability and quality, and the capacity to afford and manage water sustainably.

The consequences of Water Poverty are far-reaching, affecting the quality of life, health, economy, and overall sustainable development of communities. Households spending between 3% and 5% of their income on water and sewerage bills fall under water poverty, further exacerbating their socio-economic situation.

To measure water-related poverty, researchers have developed the Water Poverty Index (WPI). Unlike indicators solely focused on water coverage and availability, the WPI evaluates five dimensions: access, use, socio-economic capacity, water resources, and environmental conservation. By incorporating economic, social, and environmental factors, the index offers a more comprehensive assessment of water poverty, enabling a more profound understanding of the needs and opportunities to combat this problem effectively.

In parallel to Water Poverty, there is the concept of “multidimensional poverty,” which impacts human dignity, rights, needs, and full social integration. Multidimensional poverty, as defined by the National Council for the Evaluation of Social Development Policy (CONEVAL), encompasses at least one of six social deprivations: food insufficiency, educational and health backwardness, lack of basic housing services, inaccessibility to social security, poor-quality housing or inadequate spaces, and insufficient income to acquire necessary goods and services.

Both the Multidimensional Poverty Index and the Water Poverty Index incorporate human development indicators such as health, education, and income in their construction. Additionally, both indices consider housing-related social deprivation indicators. For instance, the Access dimension of the Water Poverty Index verifies indicators like piped water and drainage, establishing a strong relationship between the two indices.

Research conducted by Mara Juliana Olivas Palma, a PhD student in regional development at the Centro de Investigación en Alimentación y Desarrollo (CIAD), under the guidance of research professor Mario Camberos Castro. The research revealed that Mexico faces the most unfavorable Human Poverty Index (HPI). The HPI is based on public data from international and national institutions, analyzing seventeen countries.

Furthermore, in the examination of the thirteen Hydrological Administrative Regions (RHA) of the National Water Commission (Conagua), the study found that the most critical water poverty is concentrated in RHA-13 Aguas del Valle de México. The most affected municipalities in RHA-2 Noroeste are Etchojoa (Sonora) and Uruachi and Témosachi (Chihuahua).

One key finding from the research was that regions with the highest levels of multidimensional poverty also experience a higher prevalence of water poverty. Regardless of whether, these regions boast abundant ecosystems and the highest amount of renewable water for each person. The underlying reason is straightforward: populations do not necessarily require vast quantities of water, but rather the determination to ensure equitable and uninterrupted access to safe water for all inhabitants. Achieving this necessitates robust public policies that foster human development.

Given Mexico's current context, it becomes imperative to design academic programs that facilitate the integration of the population with the environment. This entails equipping professionals with diverse skills in science, mathematics, information technology, reading, languages, and more, enhancing their access to well-paid jobs. Moreover, it is crucial to guarantee universal access to water, drainage, and health services and provide targeted financial support to vulnerable populations facing income deprivation.

In light of these challenges, public policies at all levels of government must prioritize ensuring a sustainable water supply for all citizens, conserving aquatic ecosystems, and implementing measures to mitigate and adapt to the effects of climate change. Additionally, universal public policies on health, education, and income are essential contributors to overall human development.

Addressing Water Poverty and Multidimensional Poverty requires a comprehensive and concerted effort from all sectors of society. By implementing effective policies, empowering communities, and promoting sustainable practices, Mexico can overcome these challenges and pave the way for a brighter and more equitable future for all its citizens.

In-Text Citation: Prensa y Colaboradores, Oficina de. La Pobreza Y Su Relación Con El Agua—Centro De Investigación En Alimentación Y Desarrollo (CIAD), 12 May 2023,