Over 80% of Mexico Affected by Drought Conditions

Our Daily Planet

Drought conditions are covering 85% of Mexico as lakes and reservoirs dry up across the country. Mexico City is experiencing its worst drought in 30 years, and the reservoirs and aquifers are so depleted that some residents don't have tap water.

  • The capital city relies on water pumped in from miles away, and in an Earth Day address, Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum said the drought will likely continue to impact water supply and could increase the risk of wildfires, Reuters reports.
  • There has been about 25% less rain on average, and nearly half of the country's dams are less than half full.

Why This Matters

Researchers from Mexico City note that rapid growth in Mexican cities has led to increased demand for water, but that the country needs better water management to ensure residents have access to water as the resource becomes more scarce. And with climate change, scientists warn that "northern Mexico will face serious problems in responding to ever-growing water demands." The higher temperatures, dryer soil, and intense but sporadic rainfall brought about by climate change all make droughts worse, and researchers estimate that by 2050 Mexico City's natural water availability could fall by 10-17% as temperatures rise.

Cities like Cape Town serve as a startling reminder to the rest of the world that water management and climate mitigation cannot be delayed for water-stressed cities. Yet for Mexico City, whose metro area is home to 20 million people, severe water scarcity could be a significant destabilizing force.

Western US Drought

North of the Mexican border, the situation is not any better. The Western US has been in a state of drought since 2000. Right now, the US Drought Monitor puts 60% of the region in a severe, extreme, or exceptional drought.

Bradley Udall, a senior climate and water scientist at Colorado State University's Colorado Water Center, calls the type of drought this part of the country is experiencing "aridification" or "hot drought" -- one brought about by heat-induced lack of water due to climate change, not just a year with light rainfall. The Colorado River Basin, the biggest water system in the West that supplies water to California, Nevada, Arizona, Colorado, Wyoming, New Mexico, and Utah, is already 20% lower than last century when the states formed a compact to divvy up the water. Without major climate action, it's projected to drop another 20-35% by 2050.

"I always say climate change is water change," Udall told Yale Climate Connections. "It means too much water, not enough water, water at the wrong time. It means reduced water quality. You get all of these things together as the earth warms up."


Copyright © 2021 Our Daily Planet. Reprinted here with permission. This version may have been edited from the original article published on April 25, 2021.