On The Surface
The recent news of the devastating drought in California has reached headlines across the United States. Years of decreasing rainfall and the impactful nature of drought are bringing into question the future for regions facing water insecurity. The current struggle in California is only a small issue when acknowledging the endemic nature of water scarcity on a global level; however, few substantive steps have been taken to fix the problems regarding this precious resource. Options such as desalination are being implemented, with plants being set up in major cities such as Santa Cruz and Monterey, but these plants act band-aid solutions, or, as Sandra Postel explains in the Last Oasis: Facing Water Scarcity, “Today’s water institutions… are steeped in a supply-side management philosophy no longer appropriate to solving today’s water problems.”
Water Scarcity In Action: Mexico
Though water scarcity is a global problem, countries like Mexico bear the brunt of its impact. While Mexico is situated between two of the largest bodies of water in the world, it continually has to adapt to an increasingly waterless environment. Water scarcity in Mexico currently stems from two large facets of the Mexican Economy: agriculture and industry.
Agriculture accounts for nearly 3.9% of the Mexican GDP, a number that still characterizes much of Mexican society. Although this percentage is small when compared to other sectors of the Mexican economy, agriculture in Mexico is characterized by subsistence farming. This emphasis puts Mexico is a very difficult position. As Stratfor Global Intelligence posits, Mexico’s northern plateau houses an immense majority of the nation’s subsistence farming, but only 28% of renewable water sources. This imbalance runs the risk of driving up food prices and throwing overall societal stability on tilt.
Another source of instability in Mexico is the industrial sector. The main problem with industry is the irresponsible nature of Mexican manufacturing. Low regulation of international and domestic companies has lead to an immense increase in pollution, with waste flowing into Mexico’s 653 groundwater aquifers (⅔ of Mexico’s water supply). Factories set up in free trade zones under NAFTA will only continue to pander to the demands of a robust middle class in Mexico and will further undermine the resource sovereignty of water across the whole country.