Mexico Managing Water Shortages

Growing Blue

More policy measures needed to protect water resources

Mexico is among the largest economies in the OECD and enjoys a rich natural asset base and less energy- and material-intensive production and consumption patterns than other developed economies. However, rapid urbanization, population growth and rising income are generating a range of environmental pressures that has required action to be taken.

Currently, about 15% of total abstractions are from non-sustainable sources and water use efficiency remains very low. Water used in agriculture accounts for over three-quarters of Mexico’s water abstraction with an agricultural electricity subsidy covering more than 60% of the irrigation costs. This subsidy therefore is not only discouraging more water-efficient technologies but also is overexploiting the groundwater aquifers.

A new plan in Mexico City calls for the drawing of drinking water from a mile-deep aquifer. The government is prepared to spend as much as $40 million to pump and treat the deeper water, which they say could supply some of the city’s population for as long as a century. However, the use of this water brings about concerns not just for Mexico but for the United States as well. U.S. clean water policy currently allows for water that far underground to be intentionally polluted because it will never be used. But as population increases, temperatures rise, and traditional water supplies dry up should this water begin to be protected?

While Mexico has strengthened the protection of its rich forest and biodiversity resources, new policies need to be implemented to protect water resources to determine whether the economic benefits of drilling deeper are sustainable in the world’s third-largest metropolis.