Water shortage, lack of rain … the drought worsens in Mexico

A long drought that has affected two-thirds of Mexico could worsen in the coming weeks, as forecasts warn of high temperatures, damage to crops and a shortage of water supplies in some areas, including the populous capital.



A view of the Sanalona dam, which has low water levels due to a long-term drought has hit two-thirds of Mexico, in Culiacan, in Sinaloa state, Mexico July 1, 2021. Picture taken July 1, 2021. REUTERS/Jesus Bustamante


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A view of the Sanalona dam, which has low water levels due to a long-term drought has hit two-thirds of Mexico, in Culiacan, in Sinaloa state, Mexico July 1, 2021. Picture taken July 1, 2021. REUTERS/Jesus Bustamante

Experts are sounding alarms that parched crops could lead to insufficient production as temperatures hit 40 degrees Celsius this week in parts of the north of the country, including key agricultural areas.

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“In some states, irrigation is practically disappearing due to lack of rainfall,” said Rafael Sánchez, a water expert at the Autonomous University of Chapingo. Reservoirs are low and water transfers to farms are low, he added.

The drought in Mexico is on par with the one that hits the western United States and Canada, where crops are threatened and water rationing has been imposed.

While rains were just 3 percent below average across Mexico last year, pressure on water supplies was compounded by increased domestic demand during the COVID-19 pandemic, a report from the United States government last month.

Hopes of replenishing Mexico’s dry deposits now hinge on the traditional rainy season, formally known as the North American Monsoon, which is now underway.

“The next three months are really going to be crucial in the outcome of this drought,” said Andreas Prein, a scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado.

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

Water scarcity is common in some parts of the country, but has worsened in the face of extreme heat attributed to climate change, according to scientists and data from the National Water Commission, CONAGUA.

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

Experts fear that the problem will spread to the more than 22 million inhabitants of the metropolitan area of ​​Mexico City, fed by a network of dams but where some districts do not have piped running water.

I have no doubt that in 2022 there will be a crisis, a great crisis, “said Sánchez, who anticipates possible social unrest.” The aquifers are completely depleted. “

Sánchez is encouraging local authorities to invest in collecting rain for domestic use.

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

Images taken by a European Commission satellite showed a visible deterioration in Villa Victoria on June 15 of this year, compared to June 30 of last year when it was already half empty.

At this time last year, there were 56 reservoirs below 25 percent of capacity. Two years ago, there were only 40.

The drought has prompted the government to sew silver iodide clouds for the next 90 days in three northern agricultural states – Sinaloa, Sonora and Chihuahua – in an attempt to induce rain with the help of specially equipped air force planes. , according to a statement from the Ministry of Agriculture.

But the corn production target for this year, which is 28 million tons, is still at risk.

The overall scenario is pessimistic, and we are not going to deny that we are concerned about the drought, “said a senior official from the Ministry of Agriculture, speaking on condition of anonymity.

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

Heat absorbs moisture from the soil.

“That’s a big problem. If you are already in a very dry region like western Mexico and you increase the temperature, you lose a lot of water simply through evaporation,” Prein said.

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