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Water crisis and privatization in Mexico City, Mexico

In the capital of Mexico, poorly operating, privatized services and a lack of infrastructure investment created a highly unequal situation of water distribution. The most vulnerable in the city are exposed to frequent shortages and public health risks.


The capital of Mexico nowadays represents a largely urbanized and heavily populated area where water scarcity, missing access and pollution are grave, yet long-lasting problems [1]. Despite having periods of rainfall statistically everyday for a period of almost six months, poor planning, a lack of infrastructure investment and corruption have led to water shortages affecting especially poorer neighbourhoods [2]. 

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Water crisis and privatization in Mexico City, Mexico
State or province:Ciudad de México
Location of conflict:Mexico City
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Water Management
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Water access rights and entitlements
Urban development conflicts
Water treatment and access to sanitation (access to sewage)
Specific commodities:Water
Project Details and Actors
Project details

Mexico City obtains 66% of its water from internal sources and is equivalent to producing 23.4 m3 of water.

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Project area:148,500
Type of populationUrban
Affected Population:Around 21% of the total population are missing safe water access (2017)
Start of the conflict:01/05/1993
Company names or state enterprises:Sistema de Aguas de la Ciudad de México (Sacmex) from Mexico - Public Entity with outsourced services
Tecnología y Servicios de Agua S.A. de R.L (TESCA) from Mexico - Private actor, part of the cities water and sanitation management
Industrias del Agua de la Ciudad de México (IACMEX o IASA) (IACMEX/IASA) from Mexico - Private actor, part of the cities water, sewage and sanitation management
Servicios de Agua Potable (SAPSA) from Mexico - Private actor, part of the cities water, sewage and sanitation management
Agua de México S.A. (AGUAMEX) from Mexico - Private actor, part of the cities water, sewage and sanitation management
Relevant government actors:National Water Commission (CONAGUA): Administrative, technical advisory commission of
Mexico's Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources (SEMARNAT)
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Agua para Todxs (
Coalición de Organizaciones Mexicanas por el Derecho al
Agua (Coalition of Mexican Organizations for the Right to Water – COMDA) (
Food&Water Watch (
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:International ejos
Local ejos
Social movements
Local scientists/professionals
Forms of mobilization:Artistic and creative actions (eg guerilla theatre, murals)
Community-based participative research (popular epidemiology studies, etc..)
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Development of alternative proposals
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Media based activism/alternative media
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Soil erosion, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity
Health ImpactsVisible: Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide, Infectious diseases, Deaths
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Loss of livelihood, Violations of human rights, Specific impacts on women
Potential: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors
Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Under negotiation
Proposal and development of alternatives:The 2015 Citizensʼ Initiative represents a maximalist approach to achieving the human right to water requirements and guaranteeing water justice in Mexico and its capital. The proposal includes increasing water access to 100 lpd and extending the guaranteed water access to irregular, rural and indigenous communities. In addition, it envisions a dramatic increase in citizen participation in water decision-making, investment in resources and social oversight. Furthermore, it proposes novel forms of public control to prohibit industrial projects that extract or use water resources and prohibits private sector involvement in implementing the human right to water. The implementation of this right is needed in order to solve the problems within water supply [6].
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Not Sure
Briefly explain:This is an ongoing conflict around water governance in a complex environment. Private actors are partly complicit in neglecting better water access for vulnerable sections of the city’s population because of missing investment and failures in maintenance. A position that is challenged by progressive civil society actors delivering alternative proposals, but real change still needs to be implemented by political spheres.
Sources & Materials
References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

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[6] Wilder, M., Austria, P. F. M., Romero, P. H., & Ayala, M. B. C. (2020). The human right to water in Mexico: challenges and opportunities. Water Altern, 13, 28-48.
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[8] Van Dusen, R. (2016). The Politics of Water in Mexico City.
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[2] Matt Rivers and Natalie Gallón, CNN - Water shortages make pandemic hygiene tough in Mexico City. 2020
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[3] Food and Water Watch - Water Privatization Threat in Mexico City: The many failures of private water management, both national and international, cannot be ignored. 09.18.09
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[4] Kylie Madry - Covid exposes Mexico City’s water access gap between rich and poor. 01/10/2020
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[5] David Adler - The War for Mexico’s Water. 2015
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[9] Azam Ahmed - In the epicenter of Mexicos epicenter, feeling like trapped animal. 14.10.2020
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[10] Anthony Esposito - Water shortage leaves poorer Mexicans high and dry in coronavirus fight. 24.4.2020
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Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

Materiales Agua para [email protected]
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Meta information
Contributor:Luca Scheunpflug, Philipps-University Marburg, [email protected]
Last update10/11/2020
Conflict ID:5285
Legal notice / Aviso legal
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