Patricia Avila-Garcia, National Autonomous University of Mexico, Mexico D.F., Mexico

Presentation Title: Global change and social conflicts over water in Mexican cities



Global change involves worldwide biophysical (climatic change), social (urbanization and poverty), and economic (globalization) processes having a differential effect on regions and territories. In the case of Mexico, these processes contribute to the exacerbation of water-related problems, as expressed by the loss of water security and the escalation of social conflicts, particularly in urban areas and their hinterlands. The water crisis in cities leads to:

  • An increased social vulnerability to changes in climatic patterns and extreme events that affects the poorest populations because it affects high risk areas (marginal lands);
  • A deficit of basic water needs, such as drinking water and sanitation, that is further augmented by high poverty levels and social inequality, and by water stress in urban areas (the major part of Mexican cities have low water availability);
  • A deterioration of ecosystems and water resources (scarcity and pollution) due to the adoption of non-sustainable practices (deforestation, industrial wastes without treatment, water use and pollution by mining), the construction of megaprojects (large dams, water transfers between river basins), and urbanization (land-use change); and,
  • An institutional and legal framework inability to address the rapid urbanization and manage water conflicts between states and society; this is due to dominant economic power and interests (social and environmental injustice).

This presentation examined the question of how global change affects water security leading to social conflict scenarios in urban areas of México. With the purpose of explaining the escalation of social conflicts, the results of a theoretical consideration of the relation between global change and the water crisis in urban areas was presented, along with a comparative analyses of cases of water conflict occurring in Mexican cities and their links with global change.