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Investigation Reveals Some In Mexico Use Water Concessions To Profit Off More Than Agriculture

Courtesy Mexicanos Contra la Corrupción
Part of the El Milagro rancho owned by a former governor of Aguascalientes state in Mexico. The property uses free water from agricultural water concessions granted by the government.

From Texas Standard:

The Rio Grande, or the Rio Bravo as it's known south of the border, is a natural divider between the United States and Mexico. It's also an important shared natural resource. But a recent investigation by the nonprofit journalism organization Mexicanos Contra la Corrupción y la Impunidad found that some in Mexico might not be using that and other water resources the way they were intended.

Jenny Gonzalez, based in Aguascalientes, Mexico, is the lead reporter for the investigation, and she says the way water is used in Mexico is often tied to money and political power.

That's especially true when it comes to the issue of water "concessions." That's when the government grants water access to an organization for agricultural purposes, but that organization ends up using it for something else, profiting from it. Her investigation shows that former politicians and others are using concessions to their benefit.

"Most of them have these agricultural enterprises, so we could say that the concessions are legal," Gonzalez says. "But they are business people that use agriculture water concessions only to take the water ... and then when they build apartments or business buildings or else, they take this agriculture water and transform it into different use."

That matters because water used for agricultural purposes is free in Mexico, Gonzalez says.

In her reporting, Gonzalez found a stark difference between wealthy people who've benefited from agricultural water concessions and the water-poor communities that surround them. One is El Milagro, a rancho owned by the former governor of Aguascalientes state.

Water inequity is a deeply entrenched problem in Mexico that the government needs to address, Gonzalez says. But she argues the current president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, hasn't devoted much effort to it.

"He has given less money to environment agencies. He has other priorities," she says. "He has ... this austerity law."

Gonzalez says austerity has exacerbated the water concessions problem because the president isn't hiring enough people to monitor it.

Written by Caroline Covington.

Texas Standard reporter Joy Diaz has amassed a lengthy and highly recognized body of work in public media reporting. Prior to joining Texas Standard, Joy was a reporter with Austin NPR station KUT on and off since 2005. There, she covered city news and politics, education, healthcare and immigration.
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