Climate Change Wallops Mexico

Climate change is costing Mexico dearly. In a Mexico City speech last month commemorating World Water Day, President Enrique Pena Nieto informed an audience that the country racked up approximately $40 billion in damages attributed to climate change from 2002 to 2010. Climate disasters affected 30 million Mexicans, or more than one-quarter of the country’s population, Pena Nieto said. And last year alone, Mexico budgeted about $3 billion to pay for emergency responses to climate change, the Mexican president added.

Pena Nieto’s remarks were made as his administration rolled out a new water program designed to rationalize and maximize the use of an ever-more precious resource.

Also addressing the World Water Day event, National Water Commission (Conagua) Director David Korenfeld accented the importance of ground water in meeting Mexico’s needs.  According to Korenfeld, almost 40 percent of the total water available for human consumption in the country is found beneath the surface. In outlining the new water strategy,  Korenfeld and other administration officials spoke of plans to modernize irrigation infrastructure, safeguard aquifers, rehabilitate and construct wells, and make water deliveries more efficient overall.

While Mexico’s population continues to grow, water availability is diminishing. The National Institute of Statistics, Geography and Informatics recently estimated that per capita water availability will decline by 6.72 percent during the next 17 years.

Mexican officials view their nation as particularly vulnerable to climate troubles like the long drought that’s walloping the northern and central sections of the republic. Environment Secretary Juan Jose Guerra Abud told the Mexico City gathering that 40 percent of the country was impacted by abnormally dry conditions, with another 17 percent of the national territory entering a similar scenario.

Officials consider greater Mexico City, Baja California and the Rio Bravo/Rio Grande as regions especially threatened by current and future water shortages.

In the northern state of Chihuahua, the latest report from Conagua assessed the state’s reservoirs as having an average 33 percent of stored water capacity.
The most critical situation was reported in the northwestern municipalities of Namiquipa and Buenaventura, where reservoirs held merely 18 and 21 percent of their water capacity, respectively.

In the big central farming region where pecans, vegetables and feed crops are cultivated,  Las Virgenes Reservoir near Delicias was reported at 34 percent capacity while La Boquilla Reservoir in San Francisco de Conchos was rated at 31 percent capacity.  The prospects of scarce rainfall in the next two months could mean big problems for Chihuahua’s farmers.

Arturo Zubia Fernandez, mayor of Camargo, Chihuahua, told the press that 2,000 growers, mainly chile and onion farmers in the district of La Boquilla, face the loss of their harvests this year.

“The completion of the agricultural cycle is impossible, and I am convinced that we will be in a crisis situation by June and July if it does not rain” Zubia said.

According to Conagua, the 2013 spring water capacity of Chihuahua’s reservoirs was even much less than last year’s levels at the same time, when reservoirs were at 51 percent capacity.

The representatives of two federal agencies in Chihuahua,  Alex LeBaron of Conagua and David Balderrama of the Secretariat of Agriculture and Livestock, recently warned that 50 percent of the season’s yellow corn, oats, wheat and bean crops were at risk because of the low water supply.

LeBaron said producers with plantings of 260 acres or more could probably survive the drought with some losses,  but smaller growers with crops in the 26 acre range would experience grave difficulties. Both LeBaron and Balderrama strongly urged careful utilization of water resources this year.

Sources: El Heraldo de Chihuahua, April 1, 2013. Article by Emmanuel Fernandez., April 1, 2013. La Jornada, March 13 and 23, 2013. Articles by Miroslava Breach Velducea and Angeles Cruz Martinez.

Frontera NorteSur: on-line, U.S.-Mexico border news
Center for Latin American and Border Studies
New Mexico State University
Las Cruces, New Mexico

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