Friday, October 09, 2020

The Water Wars

  Thousands of farmers descended on La Boquilla dam in Mexico’s northern state of Chihuahua in early September to voice their anger over a looming transfer of millions of cubic metres of water to the United States. Waiting for them at the site on the Rio Conchos river was several hundred National Guard troops, who quickly abandoned their posts. Farmers turned off the valves, and weeks later, they remain at La Boquilla – demanding the transfer be cancelled.

Mexico’s federal government is mandated under a 1944 treaty to provide water to the United States. The farmers, hard hit by drought, say the transfer would leave them unable to sustain their livelihoods.

 However, under the agreement, Mexico receives from the US four times the amount of water it sends north. More specifically, the US sends approximately 1,185 million cubic metres (MCM) to Mexico each year, according to Mexican government figures, while Mexico is required to send 431 million cubic metres to the US annually.

It’s an agreement which is advantageous for Mexico, but disadvantageous for the state of Chihuahua.

The scarcity of water in Chihuahua has made it a lucrative source of income for many. The extraction of “water is possibly, more so than the extraction of minerals, the detonator of most violence in the state”.

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