Mexico’s water supply collapses amid worsening drought, putting crops at risk


A long-term drought that has hit two-thirds of Mexico is expected to worsen in the coming weeks, with forecasts warning of high temperatures, crop damage and water supply shortages on the horizon , including in the populated capital.

Experts are sounding the alarm that parched crops could underproduce as temperatures hit 40 degrees Celsius (104F) on Wednesday in parts of northern Mexico, including major agricultural areas.

“In some states, irrigation is all but disappearing due to lack of rainfall,” said Rafael Sanchez Bravo, a water expert at the Autonomous University of Chapingo, noting weak reservoirs and reduced water transfers. water to the farms.

The drought in Mexico parallels that of the western United States and Canada, where crop yields are threatened and water rationing has been imposed.

While rains were only 3% below average across Mexico last year, pressure on water supplies was exacerbated by rising domestic demand during the COVID pandemic -19, according to a US government report last month.

Hopes of replenishing Mexico’s parched reservoirs now hinge on the traditional rainy season, officially known as the North American Monsoon, which is now underway.

“The next three months will be really crucial in how this drought evolves,” said Andreas Prein, atmospheric scientist for the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado.

Much of Mexico receives between 50 and 80 percent of its annual precipitation between July and September.

Water shortages are common in parts of Mexico, but have worsened amid extreme heat blamed on climate change, according to scientists and data from the Federal Water Commission CONAGUA.

About 70 percent of Mexico is affected by drought, up from about half in December. About a fifth of the country experiences extreme drought, up from less than 5 percent each year since 2012.

Experts fear the problem may reach more than 22 million people in the Mexico City metropolitan area, which is suffocated by a network of reservoirs. At best, some districts do not have potable water.

“I have no doubt that in 2022 there will be a crisis,” said Sanchez, who anticipates possible social unrest. “The tanks are completely exhausted.”

Sanchez encourages local authorities to invest in rain collection for household use.

Villa Victoria, a major source for Mexico City, was among 77 of 210 major reservoirs below 25% capacity at the end of June, according to CONAGUA data. Cracked lake beds can be seen in other parts of the city.

Images from a European Commission satellite show visible depletion at Villa Victoria on June 15 this year, compared to June 30 last year, when it was already half empty.

At the same time last year, there were 56 tanks below 25% of their capacity. Two years ago, they were only 40.

The drought prompted the government to seed clouds with silver iodide over the next three months in a trio of northern agricultural states – Sinaloa, Sonora and Chihuahua – in an effort to induce rain using specially equipped air force planes, according to a statement from the agriculture ministry.

But this year’s corn production target of 28 million tonnes is still under threat.

“The scenario is pessimistic and we cannot deny that we are worried,” a senior agriculture ministry official said on condition of anonymity.

It can be difficult for scientists to attribute a single event to climate change, but more extreme droughts indicate a warming in global temperatures that researchers say is due to greenhouse gas emissions, Prein said.

The heat absorbs moisture from the soil.

“It’s a big deal. If you’re already in a very dry area like the western part of Mexico and you turn up the temperature, you’re losing a lot of water just through evaporation,” Prein said.


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