Mexico must improve water governance

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Mexico's river basins are under severe water stress. The quality of rivers, lakes and aquifers is declining and floods, droughts, and hurricanes are more frequent.

These are some of the alerts signaled in OECD's Making Water Reform Happen in Mexico. According to the report, Mexico's growing population and increasing threats of climate change will worsen the current situation, making water management in Mexico a national security issue.

'Mexico can no longer afford the luxury of business as usual', says OECD Secretary General Angel Gurría.

'The 2030 Water Agenda has generated new momentum for change : it is an incentive to design and implement effective, integrated, and sustainable water policies. Mexico must give high priority to reforming its water sector. It should align and improve federal and river basin policies to increase both the productivity and cost-efficiency of water policies and ensure that water and agricultural policies are mutually reinforcing.' 

The report highlights Mexico's many positive achievements. It has a well-developed institutional framework at federal, state and basin levels as well as an array of economic instruments in place to foster rational use of water resources, from abstraction charges to water markets. In addition, CONAGUA's budget tripled between 2000 and 2009, rising to MXN 38 billion in 2011.

Despite progress, much remains to be done. Policy implementation is uneven. Mexican river basin councils are not fully operational 20 years after their creation. The regulatory framework for water supply and sanitation is fragmented, providing little incentive to manage water services efficiently.

In addition, subsidies to electricity for irrigation pumping foster irrational use of water and threaten the livelihoods of farmers and local communities - the first to suffer when water runs out. These subsidies amounted to MXN 6.8 billion in 2010 - 9 times more than financing for water infrastructure. This policy incoherence generates high economic, social and environmental costs, wastes water and contaminates aquifers. 

Noting critical bottlenecks in Mexico's water sector, Making Water Reform Happen in Mexico provides good practices in OECD and non OECD countries that can support the administration's efforts to rethink the country's water management as set in Mexico's Pact signed on 2 December 2012.

The report calls upon Mexico to draw up its own water governance model based on empirical analysis.  To cope with future challenges and uncertainty, the model should include more flexible water management policies, stable and sound regulatory frameworks, and greater use of economic instruments and green infrastructures. 

The report concludes with an implementation plan suggesting concrete steps, indicators to monitor progress, and relevant examples from OECD and non-OECD countries 

Making Water Reform Happen in Mexico was launched on 8 January 2013 by OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría, Mexico's Minister for the Environment Juan Jose Guerra Abud and the Director General of the National Water Commission, David Korenfeld. For further information, journalists can contact Aziza Akhmouch.

This report was part of a larger review of Mexico's environmental performance published by the OECD, which shows that Mexico is faced with difficult trade-offs as it pursues its economic, social and environmental goals. Like other emerging economies Mexico is balancing the need to protect its natural resources with the need to address high levels of income inequality and poverty.

 This OECD Environmental Performance Review of Mexico outlines steps the country has taken to address growing environmental pressures and identifies cost-effective policies and practices to further its efforts.

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