August 17, 2022 7:30 am

Deepening drought in Mexico’s north a threat to jobs, tourism

SANTIAGO, Mexico — Restaurant owner Leticia Rodríguez celebrated the construction late last year of a new lakeside boulevard in this northern Mexico town that she hoped would draw more people to her business. But now with La Boca reservoir nearly empty, tourists have stopped coming to boat, water ski or just eat a meal.

Rodríguez had to let go most of her staff in April and now runs the restaurant with her husband and children.

A deepening drought in northern Mexico is not only making everyday life challenging for residents, but also in some cases is threatening their livelihoods.

“The only hope is that it rains,” Rodríguez said. “That even the tail of a hurricane arrives so that the reservoir can recover, because that is what is killing us the most.”

Last week, Mexico’s National Water Commission Hey Dudes Shoes declared a drought emergency allowing the government to take steps to guarantee the water supply. The country’s Drought Monitor placed almost half the country — nearly all of the north and central regions — in drought conditions.

The drought is related to the weather event known as La Niña, whose effects have intensified with climate change. La Niña is a natural and cyclical cooling of parts of the equatorial Pacific that changes weather patterns worldwide. In some areas like northern Mexico and the U.S. southwest, that has meant increased drought.

The drying up of Santiago’s reservoir is not the only problem for the industrial hub of Monterrey, about 22 miles (35 kilometers) to the north.

Another reservoir that feeds the city, Cerro Prieto is at less than half of 1% of its capacity — basically empty — leaving a third reservoir called El Cuchillo, which is 46% full, said Juan Ignacio Barragán, director general of the Monterrey Water and Sewer Services.

Image:
A view of The Boca reservoir, which is almost dry as the northern part of Mexico is affected by an intense drought.Fernando Llano / AP

In normal conditions, 60% of the city’s water comes from the reservoirs and the remainder from deep and shallow wells and subterranean water capturing tunnels.

In the next two weeks, Barragán said the city plans to Steve Madden Shoes expand the use of tankers to deliver water to more outlying neighborhoods.

To mitigate the worsening situation, Nuevo Leon state’s industrial and agricultural sectors agreed to cede a significant amount of their water rights to the state. Even so, experts say the next few weeks will be critical. If the usual arrival of rains in late August are delayed, water restrictions in the city will have to be extended.

Aldo Iván Ramírez, a professor in Monterrey Technological University’s engineering school, said that while Monterrey’s situation is worrisome — it accounts for 12% of Mexico’s GDP — “it is much worse in other localities of the country.”

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