Monday, March 27, 2023

In Mexico, Monterrey is suffering from a severe drought

MONTERY, Mexico ( Associated Press) – María del Carmen Lara lives on the outskirts of Monterrey, northern Mexico’s largest industrial city, and, like millions of others, is desperate because she’s been missing something essential: water for nearly a month.

“We panic because we don’t know when the water is going to come out again,” said Lara, 60, as she and her husband basked in the hot sun to fill them up with a tanker truck sent by the government to their neighbourhood. He used to pull the bucket. , “Eventually they listened to us and they sent us a pipe, but we still don’t have water service,” he said of the tanker truck.

Lara’s position is shared to a greater or lesser extent by the nearly five million residents of this hot city, which has been hit by an intense drought that has nearly emptied three dams in the state of Nuevo León, whose capital is Monterrey. . Residents have held protests and even blocked main roads demanding the liquid.

According to experts and officials, the crisis Monterrey is facing stems from nearly six years of drought, high temperatures, poor planning by the authorities and excessive use of water by the population. The situation forced the state government to declare a state of emergency in February and implement drastic measures, such as reducing the water supply to just seven hours a day from 4:00 to 11:00.

However, despite the government’s promises, residents of different areas of the city have reported total water shortage for extended periods, even for a month. This situation has forced them to resort to a frantic purchase of tincos (plastic tanks), bottled water and tank trucks that are sometimes given away free of cost by the authorities.

Some governments of metropolitan municipalities have installed large capacity water tanks in public squares to offer water in a limited way. But the crisis has escalated to such a level that Governor Samuel García recently asked the population to “light a candle” so that it rains.

Juan Ignacio Barragán, director of Agua y Drenaje de Monterrey, an agency that supplies water for urban consumption in the city, said rising temperatures and lack of rainfall in the region have deepened the crisis.

“It is a situation that compels us to ration water for equitable distribution across the city,” he told Associated Press.

According to official figures, the currently historically low storage at the El Cuchillo, Cerro Preto and La Boca dams is 45%, 2% and 8% respectively. Barragán told a conference on 15 June that the water stored at Cerro Preto and La Boca was enough to supply only a few more days.

“We are waiting for rain, unfortunately this year has been very dry,” he said in an interview.

The official, who took over a little more than eight months ago, said that apart from the lack of rain, officials of the previous administration—which governed the state from 2015 to 2021—allowed disorderly management of dams until They were not. Level storage critical.

Barragán said the city typically requires 16,500 liters per second for a population at this time of year, but the current state of dams and wells only allows 13,000 to be offered, which has led to the ban.

Barragan said the government is currently trying to raise awareness so that the population uses the least amount of water as consumers have historically misused the resource. The official said that on average users in Monterrey and the metropolitan area have historically used between 160 and 170 liters per person per day, which is more than the 100 liters recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO).

According to the North American Drought Monitor, 56.18% of Mexican territory experiences some sort of drought. Monitors prepared by experts in the United States, Canada and Mexico indicate that half of Nuevo León’s state is in the “abnormally dry” category and the rest are experiencing some sort of drought.

The severe drought has also opened a debate on the effects of climate change in the region. For example, when declaring a state of emergency in February, Governor Samuel García said it was not only a product of lack of infrastructure and past government mismanagement, but also of climate change.

“For all those who don’t believe in climate change, here are the consequences. This is a clear consequence of climate change, the semi-desert land makes it dry,” he said at a press conference.

Brenda Sanchez, a former official at the Federal Environment and Natural Resources Secretariat and current state legislator in Nuevo León, agreed that urgent action is needed to tackle the real consequences of climate change in the region.

Experts say that the current drought is related to a La Nia meteorological phenomenon, which causes little or very little rain depending on the conditions in each region and whose effects have been intensified by climate change.

In the face of a crisis, state and federal officials have implemented a program to build dozens of shallow and deep wells to augment supply sources.

He has also announced new infrastructure such as an aqueduct that will increase the capacity to supply water to the city from the El Cuchillo dam, the largest in the state. A fourth dam is currently under construction in the municipality of Linares.

Recently, state and federal officials also reported a plan to tackle “water theft” by farms, which diverted the resource from rivers that feed dams.

The state government has also sought to persuade big companies to release water from their wells and redirect it for urban consumption. Dozens of companies have had federal permits for decades to exploit aquifers, with which they keep their production active.

Luis Altore, an official with the Federal National Water Commission (Conagua), told the Associated Press that the water does not come from dams, but from aquifers and shallow and underground wells, which are controlled by companies through permits.

But experts say that, although these actions may have positive effects, it is still not possible to know whether the measures will be enough to resolve the crisis.

Rosario lvarez, an environmentalist at Pronatura Noreste, a non-governmental organization that analyzes the effects of drought in Nuevo León, pointed out that the government’s current action was late.

“The most recent problem is that we don’t plan for current droughts, we have years where rainfall is below average, we don’t have big storms,” ​​Alvarez said. “There is a lack of knowledge of all the characteristics of the area where we live and the lack of critical infrastructure with poor administration of the little resource we have.”

Ismail Aguilar-Barajas, an economist and researcher at the Water Center for Latin America and the Caribbean at Tec de Monterrey, agreed that “poor planning” and unfavorable weather conditions explain the current crisis.

He said relief from the crisis will most likely come in the form of a storm that regularly hits the region, but given the level of drought, preventive planning is also necessary.

As temperatures hit record lows as droughts deepen—May was the hottest in the state’s history, with temperatures above 104 degrees Fahrenheit—the despair is growing.

“We are so fed up, they haven’t followed up with us or with the service for hours that they have said we will have water. I have 35 days without water,” said of the municipality of San Nicolas, north of Monterey Monica Almaguer, 35, said during a protest organized due to the lack of water in several areas.

Filling a jug of water into a private water dispenser in Monterey, 47-year-old Gabriel Revillas said the only thing left for the population is to hope for a miracle.

“That’s all we can do, pray for a miracle to happen,” he said.


Associated Press writer Suman Naishadham contributed to this report from Washington, DC

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