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Mexico Now Enduring Worst Drought in Years

Mexico is enduring its worst drought in six decades. Crops are drying up in the fields and water is being rationed in the capital. Residents of poor neighborhoods have hijacked water trucks, and there are other signs of social tensions building. Image: DRY STATE A farmer rode past a carcass in Tabasco State, which has lost about 7,000 animals.

El Niño, a weather pattern that warms water in the Pacific Ocean and leads to changing weather around the Pacific Basin, is causing the drought, Mexican officials say.

The rainy season typically begins here in June. Rain falls almost daily in most of the country, irrigating the spring planting and filling reservoirs before the dry months. But this year, the first three months of the rainy season were dry. Officials warned that the reservoirs were falling to dangerously low levels.

In Mexico, almost 40 percent of the farm land inspected by the government has been affected by the drought, causing shortfalls in the harvests of corn, beans, wheat and sorghum. The Mexican government is spending more than $100 million to buy emergency crop insurance and to dispense direct aid to farmers.
The drought has forced the 20 million residents of Mexico City and its suburbs to confront the vulnerability of their water supply.

The Aztecs built Mexico City, or Tenochtitlán, on an island within a network of shallow lakes. Dykes and canals regulated the flow of water across the vast basin and held back floodwaters.

But the Spanish conquerors set about draining the lakes, and a century ago, the city began to extract water from wells drilled to the water table below. About 70 percent of Mexico City’s water is now pumped out of the aquifer at a rate more than twice as fast as rainfall is able to replenish it.
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