Volume 45 Number 176,
January-March 2014

Assessing the Policy of Access to Drinking Water in Mexico City, Arsenio González (coordinator), unam, University Program on City Studies, Mexico, 2011.

When we speak of rights, we imagine concepts such as freedom, equality or integrity. However, we rarely stop to think about our rights to such vital resources as water. Everyone has the right to a sufficient quantity of healthy, acceptable, accessible and affordable water for personal and domestic use.

Beyond offering a good assessment of water access policy, this book contains a good deal of interesting and relevant information that sheds light on the variety of issues facing Mexico City. The information analyzed here reveals that the realities people face vary widely depending on economic status, which is why there is a movement to recognize and exercise the right to water.

This book evaluates how water access policies have been designed and implemented, pointing out successes and failures and then making recommendations to the different institutions in charge of water management, aiming to guarantee this right for the entire population of Mexico City in a fair manner and taking into account the following factors: availability, continuity, quality, physical and economic accessibility and non-discrimination.

The first chapter presents a theoretical framework and contains the concepts needed to analyze how water access policies have been designed, as well as policies established by the State for society, expressed in the tariff system of drinking water. There are two approaches to this idea: one sees the State as a representative of the common good, and the other views it as a representative of specific social interests. Going by the first approach, water would be considered a human right, whereas the second would view it as a good. With an appropriate rate structure, the idea would be to seek an intermediate point and understand water services from a mixed perspective.

The second, “Methodology and Information Sources,” describes the methodology used to assess water policy, as its name indicates. From the perspective of design, it analyzes the Comprehensive Water Resources Management Program, the Mexico City Environmental Agenda, the Mexico City Water Law, the Environmental Law, etc. With regards to implementation, it evaluates the Santa Catarina project, the Emerging Water Supply Program in Mexico City, the Efficient Use and Water Savings Program and the Commercial System Improvement Program.

The third chapter, “The Background of Water Access Policy," explains the water policy models used in the city. One approach has been supply oriented, while another has focused on the paradigm of efficient water use and demand management. Others include an environmental approach, viewing water as a human right, and another that seeks to implement monetary charges that would vary depending on the volume consumed, with subsidies for less fortunate groups.

The fourth chapter, “Differentiated Access to Drinking Water Services,” tries to define the current state of access to drinking water in the city in terms of three factors: availability, frequency and quality of water. It analyzes the scarce availability of water as a factor in poverty, using the comprehensive poverty measurement method, revealing that there is a significant relationship between poverty levels and the daily supply of drinking water. In terms of water quality, this chapter indicates that there are wells near trash deposits in the eastern part of the city that are at risk of contamination from runoff. Similarly, the Valle de México basin presents evidence of coliforms, fecal streptococci, mercury, lead and other pathogenic bacteria following chlorination. For these reasons, the population has sought alternatives, ranging from the application of processes to increase “drinkability” to the purchase of bottles and barrels of water. Delegations belonging to the highest stratus of poverty must pay more to obtain quality water, in addition to paying for water supply, which has a serious economic impact.

This book also presents a “water achievement indicator,” which consists of analyzing the type of supply used to access water and the weekly and/or daily frequency of water, assigning values corresponding to levels of well-being. Once more, the results reveal that residents belonging to populations with high and medium levels of poverty lack consistent and quality services.

The fifth section, “The Results of a Fundamental Evaluation,” analyzes the objectives of water policy, laws, programs, etc. It contains a section explaining the risk of a water crisis in Mexico City, which could result from the over-exploitation of aquifers, dependency on external sources for water and the deterioration of internal sources.

The new rate structure, which takes into account the volume consumed and city zoning based on three criteria, is also considered: property values, income levels in the zone and development. This means that rates for water would be higher in wealthier zones of the city. Also, focusing on the rate structure, this section analyzes the participation of four private companies that were contracted in 1994 to micro-measure, invoice and bill. It examines the costs and benefits of this hiring, and reflects upon whether private enterprises may be the path to providing less fortunate citizens with water.

The sixth chapter, entitled “Results of the Evaluation on the Operational Level,” describes the emerging programs and projects that have been implemented. For example, in 2006, programs were put into motion to achieve water self-sufficiency. In 2007, programs were implemented to improve infrastructure, adequate management and water treatment. In 2008, the focus was on reducing inequality in access to water as well as changing citizen perceptions of the value of water.

The seventh chapter, “A Global Evaluation of Water Access Policy” ponders the qualitative and quantitative data available regarding water and access to water, concluding that in terms of design, there have been important successes, such as strengthening environmental sustainability and seeking water self-sufficiency, but there is a lack of explicit social policy for equal access. In terms of operations, there have been some successes with projects that promote water access, but they need to be linked to a social and sustainable water model.

The eighth chapter, “Strategic Prospects and Challenges,” emphasizes four challenges for the future: transforming the supplier model into one that makes sustainable use of water resources, incorporating the water as a human right approach into the law, programs and projects, setting up a financial system that guarantees the fair expansion of water and promoting social joint responsibility and governmental responsibility.

Finally, chapters nine and ten contain recommendations to improve water access policies in Mexico City, aiming to build a new model that guarantees fair, sustainable access founded in the idea of water as a human right.

It will be necessary for citizens to participate and stay informed, as well as follow up on this type of policy, so that they can contribute to ensuring their own fair and equitable access to water in the future.

Nallely Bautista
Faculty of Economics – unam

Published in Mexico, 2012-2017 © D.R. Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM).
PROBLEMAS DEL DESARROLLO. REVISTA LATINOAMERICANA DE ECONOMÍA, Volume 48, Number 191, October-December 2017 is a quarterly publication by the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Ciudad Universitaria, Coyoacán, CP 04510, México, D.F. by Instituto de Investigaciones Económicas, Circuito Mario de la Cueva, Ciudad Universitaria, Coyoacán,
CP 04510, México, D.F. Tel (52 55) 56 23 01 05 and (52 55) 56 24 23 39, fax (52 55) 56 23 00 97, www.probdes.iiec.unam.mx, revprode@unam.mx. Journal Editor: Alicia Girón González. Reservation of rights to exclusive use of the title: 04-2012-070613560300-203, ISSN: pending. Person responsible for the latest update of this issue: Minerva García, Circuito Maestro Mario de la Cueva s/n, Ciudad Universitaria, Coyoacán, CP 04510, México D.F., latest update: Nov 13th, 2017.
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