Agua, por favor!

Mexico: Progress in implementing Regulatory Reform
OECD Observer

In Mexico, 80% of the population lives in relatively dry and hot areas and subterranean resources are being slowly exhausted. Access to water is increasingly becoming an issue in some of the most active and industrialised parts of the country. Yet, says the OECD’s 2004 review of regulatory reform in Mexico, rapid demographic growth and industrial development have increased the overall demand for water.

Mexico, which joined the OECD in 1994, has made progress towards the targets set in the 1995-2000 plan to improve supply, sanitation and wastewater management. Still, the current level of investment stands at half of that required to achieve a sustainable supply. Water losses, mainly from irrigation and drinking water supply systems, remain high and over-exploitation of groundwater resources continues.

With rapid urbanisation, population growth has been greater in the semi-arid and arid north, northwest and central regions. These regions account for three-quarters of the population, but provide only 28% of the water resources.

Furthermore, water consumption in Mexico is relatively high, at around 730 m3 per capita, slightly lower than the OECD average of 920 m3, but higher than the European or Japanese averages.

Who is using all that water? The report casts the light on farmers. Mexico is among the world’s largest irrigation countries, with almost a third of the country’s cropland under irrigation. As a result, 80% of water use is for agriculture, including livestock, which represented only 5.5% of GDP in 2004.

The National Water Commission (CNA) is the major player in regulating water supplies, and therein lies the challenge. In theory, the purpose of a water regulatory authority nowadays, in a country such as Mexico facing acute shortages of water, should be to act as a national water watchdog, safeguarding the future of the country. In practice, the CNA is caught between that aim and the original mission of its predecessors, which was to provide water for free to poor farmers in order to foster the agricultural development of the country. These two objectives now appear to be in conflict, the report suggests, particularly as the CNA should also oversee urban needs.

As in other OECD countries, most of Mexico’s wealth now comes from services and industry, which pay a larger share of the water fees than farming, while consuming a far smaller share of the water.

Supporting farmers via cheaper water is by no means unique to Mexico, and even if water for farms tends to be of a lesser quality than for drinking, with lower infrastructural costs, the low price does not provide an incentive to farmers to become more efficient (see also article by Messrs Legg and Parris). Many wells are being exhausted, and the major urban centres and developed regions of the country face a long-term risk of water shortages.

The report urges Mexico to establish a clear focus for the CNA’s mission, as a federal watchdog for national waters, in charge of environmental and safety matters, with a strong scientific and technical base. It says the CNA should be given clear leadership at the national level, while forging partnerships with the water commissions established at the level of the various states.

ISBN 9264017526. See the New Publications pages or www.oecdbookshop.orgfor ordering details.

©OECD Observer No 254, March 2006




Economic data

E-Newsletter

Stay up-to-date with the latest news from the OECD by signing up for our e-newsletter :

Twitter feed

Suscribe now

<b>Subscribe now!</b>

To receive your exclusive paper editions delivered to you directly


Online edition
Previous editions

Don't miss

  • Africa's cities at the forefront of progress: Africa is urbanising at a historically rapid pace coupled with an unprecedented demographic boom. By 2050, about 56% of Africans are expected to live in cities. This poses major policy challenges, but make no mistake: Africa’s cities and towns are engines of progress that, if harnessed correctly, can fuel the entire continent’s sustainable development.
  • “Nizip” refugee camp visit
    July 2016: OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría visits the “Nizip” refugee camp, situated between Gaziantep and the Turkish-Syrian border, accompanied by Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister Mehmet Şimşek. The camp accommodates a small number of the 2.75 million Syrians currently registered in Turkey, mostly outside the camps. In his tour of the camp, Mr Gurría visits a school, speaks with refugees and gives a short interview.
  • OECD Observer i-Sheet Series: OECD Observer i-Sheets are smart contents pages on major issues and events. Use them to find current or recent articles, video, books and working papers. To browse on paper and read on line, or simply download.
  • Queen Maxima of the Netherlands gives a speech next to Mexico's President Enrique Pena Nieto (not pictured) during the International Forum of Financial Inclusion at the National Palace in Mexico City, Mexico June 21, 2016.
  • How sustainable is the ocean as a source of economic development? The Ocean Economy in 2030 examines the risks and uncertainties surrounding the future development of ocean industries, the innovations required in science and technology to support their progress, their potential contribution to green growth and some of the implications for ocean management.
  • OECD Environment Director Simon Upton presented a talk at Imperial College London on 21 April 2016. With the world awash in surplus oil and prices languishing around US$40 per barrel, how can governments step up efforts to transform the world’s energy systems in line with the Paris Agreement?
  • Happy 10th birthday to Twitter. This 2008 OECD Observer interview with Henry Copeland said you’d do well.
  • The OECD Gender Initiative examines existing barriers to gender equality in education, employment, and entrepreneurship. The gender portal monitors the progress made by governments to promote gender equality in both OECD and non-OECD countries and provides good practices based on analytical tools and reliable data.
  • Once migrants reach Europe, countries face integration challenge: OECD's Thomas Liebig speaks to NPR's Audie Cornish.

  • Message from the International Space Station to COP21

  • The carbon clock is ticking: OECD’s Gurría on CNBC

  • If we want to reach zero net emissions by the end of the century, we must align our policies for a low-carbon economy, put a price on carbon everywhere, spend less subsidising fossil fuels and invest more in clean energy. OECD at #COP21 – OECD statement for #COP21
  • They are green and local --It’s a new generation of entrepreneurs in Kenya with big dreams of sustainable energy and the drive to see their innovative technologies throughout Africa. blogs.worldbank.org
  • Pole to Paris Project
  • In order to face global warming, Asia needs at least $40 billion per year, derived from both the public and private sector. Read how to bridge the climate financing gap on the Asian Bank of Development's website.
  • How can cities fight climate change?
    Discover projects in Denmark, Canada, Australia, Japan and Mexico.
  • Climate: What's changed, what hasn't, what we can do about it.
    Lecture by OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría, hosted by the London School of Economics and Aviva Investors in association with ClimateWise, London, UK, 3 July 2015.
  • Is technological progress slowing down? Is it speeding up? At the OECD, we believe the research from our Future of ‪Productivity‬ project helps to resolve this paradox.
  • Is inequality bad for growth? That redistribution boosts economies is not established by the evidence says FT economics editor Chris Giles. Read more on www.ft.com.
  • Interested in a career in Paris at the OECD? The OECD is a major international organisation, with a mission to build better policies for better lives. With our hub based in one of the world's global cities and offices across continents, find out more at www.oecd.org/careers .

Most Popular Articles

Poll

What issue are you most concerned about in 2016?

Unemployment
Euro crisis
International conflict
Global warming
Other

OECD Insights Blog

NOTE: All signed articles in the OECD Observer express the opinions of the authors
and do not necessarily represent the official views of OECD member countries.

All rights reserved. OECD 2016