Mexico’s emerging illegal groundwater market: The product of corruption and neoliberal regulations
University of California, Hastings College of the Law
Mexico has limited freshwater resources, heavily relying on an extensive network of groundwater aquifers. In fact, groundwater resources have been the state’s buffer in the face of increasing urbanisation and explosion of the agricultural sector. Over the course of forty years, Mexico has instituted increasingly neoliberal water policies, resulting in over-drafted groundwater reserves and social differentiation. Dr. Nadine Reis has conducted extensive research in the arid Valley of Toluca, concluding that there is a complex hydrological nexus of government actors, private developers and the agricultural sector. This nexus revolves around the regulation limiting public access to groundwater, which in turn has led to the illegal transfers of water rights from small farmers to private developers with minimal legal consequences.In light of Dr. Reis’ case study, this paper proposes that Mexico’s regulations and lack of enforcement will create a state-wide market of illegal transfers of groundwater rights. Without complete water management reform, Mexico will institutionalize groundwater exploitation, and in turn, encapsulate the unsustainable neoliberal approach to groundwater management by generating a state-wide water crisis.