Local Communities Take Action Against Water Scarcity in Mexico

Diogo Augusto

7 Oct 2022 by The Water Diplomat

In Mexico’s Oaxaca valley, a region that has been hit by drought, local indigenous communities have come together to construct 579 different types of water infrastructure to tackle the problem of water scarcity. The construction of wells, water pans and dams has greatly increased access to water in the region despite the lack of rain. The Mexican government, acknowledging the actions of these 16 indigenous communities, has promised to grant them a concession to manage the waters locally.

In collaboration with local municipalities, the Mexican Institute of Technology and the National Institute of Indigenous People, the communities have developed infrastructure to maximise rainwater harvesting as well as to improve efficiency in irrigation systems. The valley also features a local industry that consumes 60 billion litres of water per year, i.e., the Gugar beverage company. The local community of San Bartolo Coyotepec is of the opinion that the company is overexploiting water resources and has demanded Gugar to be expelled from their territory. Of the six plants owned by the company, only three report water consumption and locals accuse Gugar of being responsible for the water scarcity in the region.

There has been a longstanding conflict between the people of Coyotepec and Gugar. The company was taken to court for illegally occupying community land. Although the judgement ruled that Gugar should vacate the lands, the local community was ordered to pay US$ 5 million compensation, which they have refused to do. Despite the water scarcity in the region, the National Water Commission (Conagua) has authorised industries in the Oaxaca valley to extract 60 billion litres of water per year from local sources.

Horacio Sosa Villavicencio, a local MP, said: “It is undoubtedly impressive, the amount of cubic metres that have been conceded to this company. On the other hand, the amount of water that San Bartolo Coyotepec has to attend to the community’s most pressing needs is laughable.”