Water Politics & Privatization in Mexico

Wednesday, July 4, 2018 - 7:00pm
Dylan Terrell

Organized with Caminos de Agua

Mexico’s 1917 Constitution protected the natural resources of the country from private appropriation. The land, oil, mineral resources, and water were to belong to the nation. They were part of the commons. Over the last three decades, and specifically after NAFTA came into effect in 1994, the constitutional safeguard over these resources has begun to change. Under neoliberal policy reform, natural resources once considered public began to slowly shift into private hands, subject to the market, not democratic public authority.

Once protected from outside interests, community-owned lands, or ejidos, were not allowed to be sold or rented, but instead passed down by generation. Considered an unfair barrier to trade under NAFTA, those communal lands are largely going extinct. We thought the National Oil Company (Pemex) was the last victory of the Mexican Constitution to lose out to the neoliberal agenda when it was opened to private interests in 2013. We never would have thought that they would ever set their sites on water.

Dylan Terrell of Caminos Agua will explain the economic and historical context of water as well as the modern politics of water privatization in Mexico today. Water is an enormous issue for us in central Mexico. The majority of our water, more than 85%, is exported to U.S. and European markets in the form of water-intensive export crops like broccoli and alfalfa. Meanwhile, local communities in the region pay the price. The aquifer is overexploited and wells are going dry - literally collapsing in on themselves - and the water that remains is concentrated with toxic levels of arsenic and fluoride, which leads to a host of health problems in long-term users. But this is a national crisis. From the north to the south of the country, corporate interests from Coca Cola to international fracking companies are threatening the quality and quantity of the Nation’s water supply.