In 1992 and 2004, Mexico initiated dramatic water policy reforms that reshaped the institutions and structures for managing water in urban and rural contexts. Mexico’s new National Water Law (or Ley de Aguas Nacionales) introduced a “new water culture” focused on a management role for state and municipal governments, rather than for the federal government; increased participation by local water users in water policy formulation; an emphasis on full-cost recovery principle for paying for water (“user pays” principle); the introduction of market mechanisms such as formal water markets, water banks, and a public water rights registry; and an emphasis on private sector participation in providing and financing urban and rural water services. The new law also created a national network of major river basin councils intended to promote integrated river basin management. The new law also operates within the contexts of society and the environment.
This project investigated potential uses for climate information within municipal and state-level urban water management systems and the extent urban water managers have access to this information in Sonora.
The research team conducted in-depth, semi-structured “key decision maker” interviews with urban water managers, academic experts, and environmentalists in seven major cities, including the “twin” border cities of Nogales, Arizona, and Nogales, Sonora. Responsibility for urban water services in each city had recently been decentralized from the federal to the state or municipal government, and in some cases involved a private water company.
The general results suggest a heterogeneity of municipal, state, and private institutional arrangements in Mexico, along with some transboundary U.S.-Mexico cooperation and/or management. The lack of adequate funding also creates problems for municipal and state water managers in the management of complex service systems with antiquated delivery infrastructures that are overwhelmed by the rapid growth of urban areas in the border region (Pineda 1999; Wilder and Romero Lankao 2006). Additionally, in spite of efforts to create a “new culture of water,” a culture of willingness to pay higher water tariffs and for widespread water accounting has yet to be created (Pineda 1999).
Climate specific results reveal that water managers’ access to climate science information and climate products in Sonora vary between large cities and small cities. Larger cities, such as Hermosillo, have enhanced access to climate science information and climate products, and are able to employ technical personnel that can interpret and use these data effectively. However, mid to small city water managers report very limited access and personnel do not have the technical expertise to effectively interpret and use climate information and products. Due to the uneven distribution and access of climate science products, few urban areas in Sonora or the border region report an increased use of climate information to inform their water use planning.
Results regarding the role of public participation in water resources decisions highlight opportunities for participation that are formalized in the legal framework but are generally not evident in practice. In Hermosillo, public participation has been formalized in the form of a technical or citizens’ advisory council to the city mayor. However, outside of Hermosillo, weak or non-existent forms of public participation exist in water decision making.
The decentralization of urban water management brings decision making about urban water provision closer to local communities, but the new management model lacks sufficient financial resources to address increasing urban demands. Recent planning discussions regarding the creation of a climate science/society center in Sonora represent a major step toward a more even and effective dissemination of climate information to local water managers. An enhanced focus on social stakeholders is likely to lead to ongoing involvement of local communities in urban water policy making. Finally, the decentralization “experiment” is quite new and has not had time to mature. The decentralized model continues to hold substantial potential to utilize climate information and engage stakeholders in order to create a more sustainable future, but the necessary technical and financial resources are critical to realizing this great potential.
Ray, A., G. Garfin, M. Wilder, M. Lenart, and A. Comrie. 2007. Applications of monsoon research: opportunities to inform decisionmaking and reduce regional vulnerability. Journal of Climate, 20:1608-1627.
Varady, R., and B. Morehouse. 2004. ¿Cuánto cuesta? Development and water in Ambos Nogales and the Upper San Pedro Basin, in: The Social Costs of Industrial Growth in Northern Mexico. K. Kopinak (ed.) San Diego, CA: Center for US-Mexican Studies, 205-248.
Varady, R., and B. Morehouse. 2004. Moving borders from the periphery to the center: river basins, political boundaries, and water management policy. in: Water: Science, Policy, and Management. R. Rawford, D. Fort, H.C. Hartmann and H.S. Eden (eds.) Washington, D.C.: American Geophysical Union, 143-159.
Wilder, M. 2005. Water, power, and social transformation: neoliberal reforms in Mexico, VertigO: La revue électronique en sciences de l’environnement, 6.
Wilder, M., and P. Romero-Lankao. 2006. Paradoxes of Decentralization: Water Reform and Social Implications in Mexico, World Development, 34:1977-1995.
Wilder, M., and S. Whiteford. 2005. Flowing uphill toward money: groundwater management and ejidal producers in Mexico’s free trade environment, in Changing Structure of Mexico: Political, Social, and Economic Prospects, Laura Randall, (ed.) New York: M.E. Sharpe, 341-260.