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Mexico's drought spreads and could wipe out agricultural production within weeks 

The Central American country's economy is in a critical situation due to high temperatures and low rainfall
Tierra agrietada recubre las orillas de la presa Villa Victoria, el principal suministro de agua para los residentes de la Ciudad de México, en las afueras de Toluca, México, el 22 de abril de 2021 AP/FERNANDO LLANO

AP/FERNANDO LLANO  -   Cracked earth covers the banks of the Villa Victoria dam, the main water supply for Mexico City residents, on the outskirts of Toluca, Mexico, 22 April 2021.

The lack of rainfall, topographic change and the inability of state institutions to respond are condemning Mexico to a loss in the agricultural sector and devastating social consequences. Eighty-four percent of Mexico's national territory is being affected by this drought, and agricultural production could survive depending on the amount of water that can be accumulated in the remainder of the year. Last year, the rains were unable to supply the entire set of dams, causing more than 200 dams to be below 50% of water accumulation, and 61 of them are in a critical state with less than 25 %. 

The Mexican state has not been able to evolve on how to solve such problems. In 2011, the drought caused a famine in the state of Chihuahua, at that time Mexico had 95% of affectation in the entire national territory, today there is 84%, only 10 points away from the worst scenario. According to data from the Agricultural Markets Consulting Group (GCMA), seven of the country's 32 states are in unfavourable conditions; "the levels in many of the country's dams are very low, mainly in the states of Sinaloa, Tamaulipas and Chihuahua and also in the Bajío region; the lack of water in irrigation areas is a very worrying issue," said Juan Carlos Anaya, president of the GCMA, to the EFE news agency. 

Una embarcación permanece inactiva en las orillas de la presa Villa Victoria, el principal suministro de agua para los habitantes de la Ciudad de México, en las afueras de Toluca, México, el 22 de abril de 2021 AP/FERNANDO LLANO
AP/FERNANDO LLANO-A boat sits idle on the banks of the Villa Victoria dam, the main water supply for the inhabitants of Mexico City, on the outskirts of Toluca, Mexico, 22 April 2021.

The 'La Niña' phenomenon is the climatic effect that has caused a shortage of rainfall in these areas of the planet, which directly affects the economies of the states, since they have an economic policy with a very strong primary sector. La Niña' affected Brazil, Argentina, the United States and Mexico. "The drought will affect the production of basic grains, but also sugar cane and other agricultural products. In addition to livestock farmers, which will cause damage to producers, .... we will have a strong impact on the sector and by state it will be less or more serious, but in 70% of the territory we see situations that we have not seen for a decade," said Anaya. 

Blanca Jiménez, director of CONAGUA, the public institution in charge of water distributions, explained that the problem of drought comes from the deficit of rainfall in 2020, which represents 3% less than in 2019, and that during the pandemic an additional demand for water supply was generated, within the large cities that have a high demand, "the storage of the most important dams in the country was affected; a drought in a desert is normal and is not a problem but a drought in highly populated or agricultural areas is worrying," Jiménez told the EFE agency. 

Un hombre llena un tanque de agua dentro de una casa para el uso diario, ya que la Ciudad de México y el área metropolitana se está quedando sin agua mientras la sequía se apodera de la ciudad de casi 22 millones de personas en Ecatepec, Estado de México, México 21 de abril de 2021 REUTERS/CARLOS JASSO
REUTERS/CARLOS JASSO-A man fills a water tank inside a house for daily use, as Mexico City and the metropolitan area is running out of water as drought grips the city of nearly 22 million people in Ecatepec, Mexico State, Mexico 21 April 2021

The monitoring of this phenomenon indicates that some 1,295 municipalities in the country will suffer a "moderate drought", while some 488 will have an "abnormally dry" situation.  This problem could worsen, Mexico should seek prevention and mitigation measures such as saving water, and how to prevent water wastage in households. The most affected regions will be in the northwest and northeast of the country, such as Guanajuato, Michoacán, Guerrero and the coast of Oaxaca. Currently, 80 forest fires have been recorded, affecting 17,524 hectares. 

76% of water use in Mexico is for agricultural use, 14% for domestic use, and the rest for industry and electricity, access to this resource is not sustainable over time if the model is not changed. Judith Domínguez, coordinator of the Water Security Observatory, told the newspaper El País: "We are better prepared with information, but in the end everything is subject to political and spontaneous decisions when they should be preventive decisions with technical criteria". She suggests that drought should be foreseen in advance, and, in this way, domestic and agricultural water consumption could be reduced in order to save for the most difficult moments.

Latin America Coordinator: José Antonio Sierra