Government Mismanagement Compounds Water Crisis In Mexico

The Mexican city of Monterrey, capital of the state of Nuevo León, has been in the grip of a water crisis for weeks. For 6 years now, Monterrey, which is home to 5 million inhabitants, has suffered from below average rainfall and drought conditions. While the area has always been dry – it sits on an arid plain in the shadow of the Sierra Madre Oriental mountain range – the extent of the crisis is unprecedented.

Monterreyans are “fed up,” Mónica Almaguer, a resident of the Monterrey suburb of San Nicolas, told the Washington Post. “They [the government] haven’t even lived up to the schedule in which they said there would be water. I have gone 35 days without water,” Almaguer said. “We are all struggling because there’s no running water,” agreed Maria Luisa Robles, a resident of the nearby Sierra Ventana neighborhood.

Though the region had experienced drought conditions for years prior to the current crisis, the city neglected to change its strategy of water collection, which primarily relies on waiting for seasonal hurricanes to fill reservoirs, according to the Washington Post and Reuters. Local authorities began rationing water in March, the Washington Post says, after three dams supplying 60% of the city’s water began to run dry. The dams held 45%, 8%, and 2% of their capacity respectively a week ago, and supplies have only gotten lower since. Thousands of homes have been without water for weeks, despite authorities’ promises of service between the hours of 4 and 10 a.m, sparking anger among the local populace. Protests have started in the streets.

While the severity of Monterrery’s crisis is unique, its overall climate conditions are not – according to the federal water commission, CONAGUA, more than half of Mexico is currently experiencing moderate to severe drought conditions.

News headlines prioritize state actors and international agreements when talking about climate change, but it is local communities which bear the brunt of the effects. Thus, it is local authorities’ responsibility to prepare – and clearly, they need to do a better job. However, they will need the support and resources of larger state and national authorities, and these groups are also defaulting on their responsibilities.

“This is clearly the result of climate change,” Samuel García, governor of Nuevo León, said. “For those who don’t believe in climate change, here are the consequences.” And as those consequences continue to grow in frequency and severity, global actors need to do more than simply sign documents like the Paris Agreement. Rather, they must put their words into action and enforce those agreements to ensure that situations like Monterrey are the exception, rather than the norm.