Photographs by Cesar Rodriguez
Written by Maria Abi-Habib and Bryan Avelar
- Aug. 3, 2022
Mexico, or large parts of it, is running out of water.
An extreme drought has seen taps run dry across the country, with nearly two-thirds of all municipalities facing a water shortage that is forcing people in some places to line up for hours for government water deliveries.
The lack of water has grown so extreme that irate residents block highways and kidnap municipal workers to demand more supply.
The numbers underlining the crisis are startling: In July, eight of Mexico’s 32 states were experiencing extreme to moderate drought, resulting in 1,546 of the country’s 2,463 municipalities confronting water shortages, according to the National Water Commission.
By mid-July, about 48 percent of Mexico’s territory was suffering drought, according to the commission, compared with about 28 percent of the country’s territory during the same period last year.
While tying a single drought to human-caused climate change requires analysis, scientists have no doubt that global warming can alter rainfall patterns around the world and is increasing the likelihood of droughts.
Across the border in recent years, most of the Western half of the United States has been in drought, with conditions ranging from moderate to severe.For the region, this period is now the driest two decades in 1,200 years.
The crisis is particularly acute in Monterrey, one of Mexico’s most important economic hubs and where the entire metropolitan area of about five million people is affected by drought, according to officials. Some neighborhoods in Monterrey have been without water for 75 days, leading many schools to close before the scheduled summer break.
The situation in the city has gotten so dire, a visiting journalist could not find any drinking water for sale at several stores, including a Walmart.
Buckets, too, are scarce at local stores — or being sold at astronomically high prices — as Monterrey’s residents scrape together containers to collect water supplied by government trucks sent to the driest neighborhoods. Some residents clean out trash cans to ferry water home, children struggling to help carry what can amount to 450 pounds of water.
While Monterrey’s poorest neighborhoods are the hardest hit, the crisis is affecting everyone, including the wealthy.