Today water shouts at us and demands from us that we manage it in a way that is
completely unexpected. Water, as the ultimate representative of nature, domesticates
and civilizes us.
víctor m. toledo, “Mexican@s, al grito del agua”
n the past fifteen years, three Mexican presidents— Vicente Fox, Felipe
and Enrique Peña Nieto— have successively declared protecting
water a matter of national security.”1 Their terminology invokes the drug war,
reflecting the gravity of Mexico’s current water crisis as borne out by (conserva-
tive) government statistics: groundwater alone accounted for 38  percent of all
water use in 2013, and 106 of the country’s 653 aquifers— totaling 60  percent
of the nation’s groundwater— were severely overexploited and contaminated.
Due to rapid demographic growth during much of the twentieth century,
water availability declined from 18,053 cubic meters per capita in 1950 to
3,982 in 2013.2 Massive hydraulic infrastructure building, including high
dams, canals lined with concrete, and motorized groundwater pumps, made
formerly unavailable water supplies more accessible yet also dangerously vul-
nerable. In the past couple of de cades, the greater prevalence and duration of
severe droughts exacerbated or induced by anthropogenic climate change has
rendered Mexico’s reliance on invasive hydraulic technology even more
Through an envirotech history of the emblematic central- northern arid La-
guna region, this book shows how and why Mexico’s postrevolutionary govern-
ments, like so many others around the globe in the twentieth century (and to
this day), continued to deploy invasive hydraulic technologies for state devel-
opment even though they knew it was unsustainable. It highlights the role of
Epilogue The Legacies of Water Use
and Abuse in Neoliberal Mexico
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