Water supply and sanitation in Mexico

Water supply and sanitation in Mexico

While many Mexican water supply and sanitation service providers rank among the best in Latin America, in general, the Mexican water and sanitation sector is characterized by the following issues (i) poor technical and commercial efficiency of service provision; (ii) inadequate water service quality; and (iii) inadequate sanitation service quality, particularly concerning wastewater treatment; (iv) inadequate coverage, in particular in poorer rural areas.


"Source": WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Program ( [http://www.wssinfo.org/en/welcome.html JMP] /2006). Data for [http://www.wssinfo.org/pdf/country/MEX_wat.pdf water] and [http://www.wssinfo.org/pdf/country/MEX_san.pdf sanitation] based on the WHO World Health Survey (2003) and the Census (2000).

During the past decade, the Mexican water and sanitation sector made major strides in service coverage with water supply and sanitation coverage. As shown above, in urban areas almost 100% of the population is estimated to have access to improved water supply and 91% to adequate sanitation. In rural areas, the respective shares are 87% for water and 41% for sanitation. Coverage levels are particularly low in the South of the country.

Service quality

Quality of service also leaves much to be desired. The 2000 census indicated that 55% of Mexican households with access to piped water received services on an intermittent basis, in particular in smaller municipalities and poor areas. About 36% of wastewater was being treated in 2006, a share that is more than twice as high as the average for Latin America. However, an unknown share of Mexican treatment plants do not comply with norms for effluent discharge.

Water resources

In 2006, 63% of the Mexican water was extracted from surfacial sources, such as rivers or lakes. The remaining 37% came from Aquifers.es icon [http://www.paot.org.mx/centro/boletin/agosto/estadisticas_agua_mexico_07.pdf Conagua 2007] , p. 60]

Due to the strong growth of population and internal migration towards arid and semi-arid regions, many water resources in North and Central Mexico became overexploited. According to the [http://www.CONAGUA.gob.mx/ National Water Commission] , groundwater overextraction is at almost 40 percent of total groundwater use. [ [http://www-wds.worldbank.org/external/default/WDSContentServer/WDSP/IB/2006/12/15/000310607_20061215115956/Rendered/PDF/382050ENGLISH01ve0950Water01PUBLIC1.pdf World Bank, 2006b] , p. 1] In addition, CONAGUA estimates that 52% of the superficial water is very polluted, whereas only 9% are in an acceptable condition. [ [http://www-wds.worldbank.org/external/default/WDSContentServer/WDSP/IB/2007/10/19/000310607_20071019123528/Rendered/PDF/411690MX0Lerma1ase1study1501PUBLIC1.pdf World Bank, 2006a: The Lerma-Chapala River Basin, p. 4] ]

Water Use

Despite scarce resources in many Mexican regions water consumption is at a high level, partly favored by poor payment rates and low tariffs. In 2006, more than three quarters (76.8%) was used for agriculture, while public supply only used up 13.9%, the remainder being used by thermal power station (5.4%) and industry (3.8%). In 2006, all in all 77.3 billion m3 were consumed in Mexico, of which 10.7 billion m3 were used for domestic consumption. This means that the average domestic use per capita and day was 270 litres.

History and recent developments


In the second half of the 20th century, the Mexican water supply and sanitation sector has undergone several changes of organization to improve its performance.

1948-1983: Centralization

Since 1948, responsibility for Mexican urban water supply systems was vested in the Ministry of Water Resources ("Secretaría de Recursos Hídricos" - SRH) under the federal government. For almost 30 years, the whole urban water organization was planned and carried out by the General Water and Sanitation Committee within the SRH. At the local level, federal Water Boards facilitated some local participation but actually also depended on the SRH.

In 1971, a new committee for water supply and sanitation systems was introduced by SRH facing a high increase in urban population which exceeded the centralized system's capacity to provide services. Despite the creation of more specialized organizations at the national level, the federal government finally had no choice but to decentralize the services to the states and municipalities. [ [http://www.colson.edu.mx/Region_y_Sociedad/revista/24/24_2.pdf Pineda 2002] , p. 45-49] The belief that water provision should be a gift from the federal government may be rooted in the policies of that centralization period. [http://www-wds.worldbank.org/external/default/main?pagePK=64193027&piPK=64187937&theSitePK=523679&menuPK=64187510&searchMenuPK=64187283&theSitePK=523679&entityID=000160016_20051123095117&searchMenuPK=64187283&theSitePK=523679 World Bank 2005] , p. 71]

1983-1989: Decentralization

Under President Miguel de la Madrid, municipalities were entrusted with providing water supply and sanitation services within the framework of a general decentralization process. At the same time, state governments were made responsible for technical and financial assistance. They were also authorized to decide about the municipalities' capacity for providing the services. Most municipalities neither received the necessary financial ressources nor the technical assistance to fulfill their new responsibilities. That is why in 1988 only 10 of 31 Mexican states had devolved responsibility to the municipalities and where they did, service quality and efficiency usually deteriorated. [ [http://www.colson.edu.mx/Region_y_Sociedad/revista/24/24_2.pdf Pineda 2002] , p. 49-53]

ince 1989: Sector reform through CONAGUA

President Carlos Salinas, elected in 1988, began a significant sector reform, creating the [http://www.conagua.gob.mx/ National Water Commission or "Comisión Nacional del Agua" (CONAGUA)] in 1989, which today remains a key player in Mexican water supply and sanitation (see below). At the beginning, it was given the task of defining federal policies to strengthen service providers through technical assistance and financial ressources. CONAGUA, among other suggestions soon recommended to strengthen the decentralization process, improve the transparency of tariffs and introduce tariff autonomy, based on real costs for the service provision and free of political influence. Consequently, many water laws were introduced or amended, partly following CONAGUA's guidelines. In 1996, 21 states had transferred service provision to municipal service providers. [ [http://www.colson.edu.mx/Region_y_Sociedad/revista/24/24_2.pdf Pineda 2002] , p. 53-60]

Recent developments

Even though the legal preconditions for a good working sector are fulfilled to a large extent, it still faces serious problems regarding efficiency, political influence, service quality and in some areas coverage. [ [http://www.colson.edu.mx/Region_y_Sociedad/revista/24/24_2.pdf Pineda 2002] , p. 60]

A 2004 modification of the [http://www.diputados.gob.mx/LeyesBiblio/pdf/16.pdf National Water Law] envisaged the transfer of certain functions from both the federal and state levels to newly created institutions at the level of river basins, including financial decisions through the creation of a National Water Financial System. The provisions of the new law remain to be implemented. [ [http://www-wds.worldbank.org/external/default/main?pagePK=64193027&piPK=64187937&theSitePK=523679&menuPK=64187510&searchMenuPK=64187283&theSitePK=523679&entityID=000160016_20051123095117&searchMenuPK=64187283&theSitePK=523679 World Bank 2005] , p. 12]

Responsibility for water supply and sanitation

Policy and regulation

Priorities at the national level are set through six year state development plans. The 2007-2012 [http://www.agua.org.mx/images/stories/BibliotecaT/Leyes_y_normas/programa%20naciona%20h%EDdrico%202007%202012.doc National Water Program ("Programa Nacional Hídrico")] is aimed at reaching the following:
* Improve water productivity in agriculture
* Improve access and quality to water supply and sanitation
* Support integrated and sustainable water resources management in basins and aquifers
* Improve the technical, administrative and financial development in the sector
* Consolidate user and society participation and in this way support economic use
* Prevent risks of meteorological phenomenons
* Evaluate the effects of climate change to the water cycle
* Create a culture in compliance with the [http://www.diputados.gob.mx/LeyesBiblio/pdf/16.pdf sector law] [es icon [http://www.paot.org.mx/centro/boletin/agosto/estadisticas_agua_mexico_07.pdf Conagua 2007] , p. 161]

Federal policies for water and sanitation are set by the CONAGUA, which became a well-established autonomous entity under the [http://www.semarnat.gob.mx/ Ministry of Environment] . CONAGUA plays a key role in the sector's financial allocation. Besides water supply and sanitation, it is also responsible for water resources management, irrigation, flood protection and personnel services.

At the regional level, responsibility for water supply and sanitation vary among the 31 Mexican states. Most of them have created State Water Commissions ("Comisión Estatal de Agua" - CEA), which are autonomous entities that are usually under the authority of the State Ministry of Public Works. Most of them provide technical assistance to municipalities and some operate water distribution systems. [http://www-wds.worldbank.org/external/default/main?pagePK=64193027&piPK=64187937&theSitePK=523679&menuPK=64187510&searchMenuPK=64187283&theSitePK=523679&entityID=000160016_20051123095117&searchMenuPK=64187283&theSitePK=523679 World Bank 2005] , p. 10-14]

ervice provision

According to the Mexican constitution responsibility for water supply and sanitation services delivery rests with 2,446 municipalities since the decentralization of 1983. [ [http://www.colson.edu.mx/Region_y_Sociedad/revista/24/24_2.pdf Pineda 2002] , p. 49] However, a few states deliver services through state water companies on behalf of municipalities. In some cases, the state agencies directly provide water and sanitation services. In rural areas, water boards (Juntas) are responsible for water supply.

Due to different policies and programs at the local level, service is provided directly by municpalities or by cooperatives, public or private utilities, which differ substantially concerning size, autonomy, performance and financial efficiency. Although most providers lack political independence and financial efficience, there are some notable exceptions that are efficiently operated. [ [http://www-wds.worldbank.org/external/default/main?pagePK=64193027&piPK=64187937&theSitePK=523679&menuPK=64187510&searchMenuPK=64187283&theSitePK=523679&entityID=000160016_20051123095117&searchMenuPK=64187283&theSitePK=523679 World Bank 2005] , p. 13-14]


The efficiency and quality of water and sanitation services vary widely, to a large extent reflecting different levels of development across the country. On average, the level of non-revenue water in Mexico was 51% in 2003 [ es icon [http://www.paot.org.mx/centro/boletin/agosto/estadisticas_agua_mexico_07.pdf CONAGUA 2007] , p. 123] , about twice as high as for well-run utilities.

The average staff per 1,000 connections among a sample of 35 large utilities in Mexico was 4.5 in 2000. [ [http://www-wds.worldbank.org/external/default/main?pagePK=64193027&piPK=64187937&theSitePK=523679&menuPK=64187510&searchMenuPK=64187283&theSitePK=523679&entityID=000160016_20051123095117&searchMenuPK=64187283&theSitePK=523679 World Bank 2005] , S. 29]

Financial aspects


The Mexican average tariff per m3 (US$0.32) is about half of the average in Latin America and the Caribbean (US$0.65). However, since tariffs are fixed at the municipal level depending on different legal frameworks, they differ substantially. Consequently, domestic users in Tijuana monthly pay US$1.1 for 30m3, wheras customers in Villahermosa only pay US$0.05 for the same amount.1 Mexican Peso = US$0.09276, (12/31/2006)] On average only 72% of all bills are being paid. 31% of water customers are not metered and are charged a flat rate independent of consumption. Usually, commercial and industrial users are charged tariffs close to full cost recovery, whereas residential users are cross-subsidized.

Sanitation is normally charged as a small percentage share of the water bill. [ [http://www-wds.worldbank.org/external/default/main?pagePK=64193027&piPK=64187937&theSitePK=523679&menuPK=64187510&searchMenuPK=64187283&theSitePK=523679&entityID=000160016_20051123095117&searchMenuPK=64187283&theSitePK=523679 World Bank 2005] , p. 29-31]

Cost recovery

Since tariff levels and structures vary widely in Mexico, some providers fully recover all costs while others do not even cover operating costs. There are no reliable figures concerning water supply and sanitation revenues in Mexico. However, it seems that the sector as a whole generates a little modest cash surplus, which seems to reflect shortfalls in essential spending on maintenance and modernization rather than financial efficiency. According to CONAGUA, total tariff collections were US$2 billion (MxP21.2 billion) in 2006.


According to CONAGUA, US$ 1.4 billion (MxP 14.7 billion) were invested in the sector in 2006, which is US$ 13 per capita. Compared to the investment from 1996 to 2002, which was between US$ 3.7 and US$ 5.5per capita, this is a significant increase. However, investment was still higher at the beginning of the 1990s. The average per capita investment from 1997 to 2003 is higher than in Costa Rica, Ecuador and Honduras, but it falls short of the investment in other bigger Latin American countries like Argentina or Colombia. ["See also: Investment in water supply and sanitation in Latin America"]


Investments are financed by federal (33% in 2005), regional (23%) and local subsidies (14%) and other sources (31%) including self-financing, credits and private funding. Two thirds of the investment is channeled through several CONAGUA programs. Due to overlapping planning and budget cycles at the national, regional and local level as well as poor coordinated investment plans, project planning is extremely difficult. [ [http://www-wds.worldbank.org/external/default/main?pagePK=64193027&piPK=64187937&theSitePK=523679&menuPK=64187510&searchMenuPK=64187283&theSitePK=523679&entityID=000160016_20051123095117&searchMenuPK=64187283&theSitePK=523679 World Bank 2005] , p. 61]

External support

World Bank

* [http://web.worldbank.org/external/projects/main?pagePK=64283627&piPK=73230&theSitePK=40941&menuPK=228424&Projectid=P080149: Decentralized Infrastructure Reform and Development Loan]
* [http://web.worldbank.org/external/projects/main?pagePK=64283627&piPK=73230&theSitePK=40941&menuPK=228424&Projectid=P091695: Modernization of the Water and Sanitation Sector Technical Assistance Project]
* [http://web.worldbank.org/external/projects/main?pagePK=64283627&piPK=73230&theSitePK=40941&menuPK=228424&Projectid=P088546: Waste Management and Carbon Offset Project]



*es icon Comisión Nacional de Agua (CONAGUA): [http://www.paot.org.mx/centro/boletin/agosto/estadisticas_agua_mexico_07.pdf Estadísticas del agua en México, 2007]
*es icon Comisión Nacional de Agua (CONAGUA): [http://www.CONAGUA.gob.mx/eCONAGUA/Espaniol/Directorio/Default.aspx Situación del Subsector Agua Potable y Saneamiento, 2006]
*es icon Organización Mundial de Salud (OMS): [http://www.cepis.ops-oms.org/eswww/eva2000/mexico/informe.html Mexico Evaluación de los Servicios de Agua Potable y Saneamiento 2000 en las Américas]
*es icon Pablos, Nicolas Pineda: [http://www.colson.edu.mx/Region_y_Sociedad/revista/24/24_2.pdf La Politica urbana de agua potable en Mexico: del centralismo y los subsidios a la municipalización, la autosuficiencia y la privatización. Revista Región y Sociedad, May 2002]
*UNICEF/WHO: [http://www.wssinfo.org Joint Monitoring Program (JMP) for Water Supply and Sanitation]
*World Bank: [http://www-wds.worldbank.org/external/default/main?pagePK=64193027&piPK=64187937&theSitePK=523679&menuPK=64187510&searchMenuPK=64187283&theSitePK=523679&entityID=000160016_20051123095117&searchMenuPK=64187283&theSitePK=523679 IPER Mexico Infrastructure Public Expenditure Review (IPER), 2005]
*World Bank: [http://www-wds.worldbank.org/external/default/WDSContentServer/WDSP/IB/2007/10/19/000310607_20071019123528/Rendered/PDF/411690MX0Lerma1ase1study1501PUBLIC1.pdf Integrated River Basin Management - Case 5: The Lerma-Chapala River Basin, Mexico (February 2006)]
*World Bank: [http://www-wds.worldbank.org/external/default/WDSContentServer/WDSP/IB/2006/12/15/000310607_20061215115956/Rendered/PDF/382050ENGLISH01ve0950Water01PUBLIC1.pdf The role of water policy in Mexico. En breve. -- no. 95 (October 2006)]

External links

* [http://www.conagua.gob.mx/ CONAGUA]
* [http://www.sadm.gob.mx/ AyD de Monterrey]

See also

*Water resources in Mexico

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