Author Archive for christinarichardson

Stanford historian unearths greed-drenched origins of Mexico’s groundwater crisis

Photo retrieved from Stanford News

“A historic three-year drought has left California bone dry. But the state, along with much of the Southwest, is not alone in its water crisis. Mexico, too, is facing a severe water shortage, and Stanford scholar Mikael Wolfe says the Mexican version was decades in the making, and probably preventable.

Wolfe, an assistant professor of Latin American and environmental history, has brought to light the shady story of groundwater pumping in 20th-century Mexico. As Mexico’s water problem is now described as a matter of national security, Wolfe’s research is especially timely. He found that today’s groundwater crisis can be traced back to the 1920s, in the aftermath of the Mexican Revolution (1910-20), much earlier than most water scholars and policymakers have assumed. His research draws heavily from the Historical Water Archive in Mexico City. The only collection of its kind in Latin America, the archive contains tens of thousands of documents produced by hydraulic engineers, landowners and peasants, from the 19th century to the present.

“Although the Revolution happened a century ago,” Wolfe says, “decisions about groundwater extraction continue to impact water quality and supply issues in Mexico today.”

Even more surprising, Wolfe found evidence that the Mexican government was warned about the overuse of groundwater resources in the 1930s. Mexican agriculturalists – by far the biggest groundwater users – were paving the way toward environmental disaster.

Within a decade after the Revolution, Mexico already showed signs of groundwater shortage. As Wolfe’s research demonstrates, the engineering elite was responsible for building canal networks, dam projects and groundwater pumps to distribute and maximize access to water. Wolfe found a confidential 1944 U.S. consular report predicting that ecological “disaster lies ahead” for Mexico – despite, or perhaps because of, the burgeoning water infrastructure.

Unfortunately, the insatiable demand for water, fueled by developmental imperatives, “persistently trumped concerns for conservation,” Wolfe said, adding, “it’s a pattern that persists to this day.”"

Read more at: Stanford News

The Risks of Cheap Water

“This summer, California’s water authority declared that wasting water — hosing a sidewalk, for example — was a crime. Next door, in Nevada, Las Vegas has paid out $200 million over the last decade for homes and businesses to pull out their lawns.

It will get worse. As climate change and population growth further stress the water supply from the drought-plagued West to the seemingly bottomless Great Lakes, states and municipalities are likely to impose increasingly draconian restrictions on water use.

Such efforts may be more effective than simply exhorting people to conserve. In August, for example, cities and towns in California consumed much less water — 27 billion gallons less —than in August last year.

But the proliferation of limits on water use will not solve the problem because regulations do nothing to address the main driver of the nation’s wanton consumption of water: its price.”

Read more: The New York Times


$6.6-million settlement reached on Malibu beach water pollution

“Malibu has reached a $6.6-million legal settlement with environmental groups that both sides say will protect beachgoers by reducing the amount of polluted storm runoff that reaches the ocean.

“The settlement of a 2008 federal Clean Water Act lawsuit against the city by Santa Monica Baykeeper and the Natural Resources Defense Council was approved Friday by a unanimous vote of the Malibu City Council during a special closed-session meeting.

“The agreement requires Malibu to build rain-water harvesting, infiltration or treatment devices to catch storm water before it is released from 17 storm drains throughout the city. In all, the work will cost about $5.6 million, said City Atty. Christi Hogin, who noted that Malibu is already undertaking 11 of those projects.

“The city also agreed to pay the environmental groups $750,000 in legal fees and set aside $250,000 to fund an ocean health assessment of Santa Monica Bay in collaboration with scientists at Cal State Northridge.”

Read more: The L.A. Times

Water crisis in city may take a serious turn soon

A heavy shower Friday morning though broke the hot-spell, the plight of the people facing acute water shortage is unlikely to go away soon.

“The water crisis that has been causing sufferings to the residents of different parts of the Dhaka city is unlikely to end soon.


“Rather lifting of excess groundwater from the aquifer and obstruction to recharge it may even intensify the crisis in the coming days, experts said.

“Excess lifting of groundwater, pollution of natural water bodies, power outage, overpopulation and policy failures are the factors causing water crisis in the capital, they said.

“The areas in which people across the capital are suffering from water crisis now include Mirpur, Kazipara, Shewrapara, Badda-Gulshan, Jurain, Khilgaon, Moghbazar, Bashabo, Mugda, Madartek, Wari, Azimpur, most parts of Old Dhaka, Hazaribag, Mohammadpur, Dhanmondi-Shankar, Kalyanpur.

“Residents claimed that the water supplied by Dhaka Water and Sewerage Authority (WASA) was inadequate and in some areas the piped-water was also too much polluted and unfit for consumption.

“”Even, despite boiling it for more than an hour, the bad smell doesn’t go. On the other hand, its colour becomes yellow-reddish. This water can only be used for washing clothes and cleaning the floor,” Aklima Ara, a house-wife at Azimpur Graveyard (old) area in the capital said.

“She said most of the time she is forced to use this dirty water for cooking and drinking.”

Read more: The Financial Express