The Mexican drought reaches critical levels as the lakes dry up


Drought conditions now cover 85% of Mexico

The mayor of Mexico City said the drought was the worst in 30 years, and the problem can be seen on reservoirs that store water from other states to supply the capital.

Some of them, such as the Villa Victoria reservoir west of the capital, have a third of their usual capacity, with a month and a half left before significant rain is expected.

Isais Salgado, 60, was trying to fill the truck with a water tank at Villa Victoria, which usually only takes him half an hour. On Thursday, he estimated it would take 3 1/2 hours to pump water into his 10,000-liter tank.

“The tank is drying up,” Salgado said. “If they continue to pump out the water, it will be completely dry by May and the fish will die.”

Mexico City Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum said that as the drought worsened, more and more people were watering lawns and gardens, making the problem worse.

The capital’s 9 million residents rely on reservoirs such as Villa Victoria and two others – which together have about 44% of capacity – for a quarter of their water; most of the rest comes from sources within the city limits. But the city’s water level is falling, and watertight pipes are consuming a lot of what is being brought into the city.

Rogelio Angeles Hernandez, 61, has been fishing the waters of Villa Victoria for the past 30 years. He’s not so worried about his own catch; in the dry seasons of the past, residents were able to harness fish in carts as the water level dropped.

But tourism on reservoirs, such as the Valle de Bravo further west, has been hit by falling water levels.

In the end, the capital will really suffer.

“The fishing is the same, but the real impact will be on the people in Mexico City, who will get less water,” Angeles Hernandez said.

A little further west, in the state of Michoacan, the country is threatened with the loss of its second largest lake, Lake Cuitzeo. About 75% of the lake’s bed is now dry, said Alberto Gómez-Tagle, a biologist and researcher who chairs the University of Michoacan’s Institute of Natural Resources.

Gómez-Tagle said deforestation, roads built over the shallow lake and diversion of water for human use played a role, but that three extremely dry years left the lake a dusty plain.

“2019, 2020 and so far 2021 have been droughts above average, and that has had a cumulative effect on the lake,” he said.

Michoacan Governor Silvano Aureoles said so many lakes have dried up that communities on the coast are now suffering from dust storms. He said communities may need to start planting vegetation on the lake bed to prevent storms.

In a petition to the government, residents of communities around the lake said there were only six of the 19 fish species that used to be in Cuitze left. They said the dust storms caused tens of thousands of respiratory and intestinal infections among the local population.


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