The Perils and Promise of Sustainable Water Management Reform: Lessons from Mexico City

Authors: Marcela Gonzalez Rivas*, University of Pittsburgh
Topics: Urban and Regional Planning, Water Resources and Hydrology, Latin America
Keywords: water governance, water human right
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/6/2019
Start / End Time: 3:05 PM / 4:45 PM
Room: Calvert Room, Omni, East
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Water sustainability is at the foundation of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In the context of increasing water scarcity, rapid urbanization and contamination of water sources, improving water management will be crucial to achieving the SDGs. However, given the existing socio-economic inequalities and power asymmetries, the approach’s recommendations are difficult to implement politically, a fact often ignored by agencies proposing them, which leads to pessimism regarding progress of SDGs related to water.
This paper examines these issues in the context of Mexico City’s recent efforts to push through reforms that look like the best practices recommended by international agencies, seeking a way past the political difficulties that have plagued global reform efforts with regard to water provision. Using a combination of in-depth interviews, and an extensive survey of the main actors in the city’s water sector, the paper identifies the nuances of the actors' key grievances and compares their perceptions of water sustainability issues. Drawing on Environmental Justice and Urban Political Ecology, the paper explores the hypothesis that different actors draw mainly on two different paradigms when attempting to solve Mexico City’s water problems.

The paper concludes inquiring about the extent to which it is possible to find common ground across different groups. By identifying the actor’s key tensions as well as areas of shared concern, the paper aims to provide some guidance to policymakers and planners trying to navigate between the recommendations of international agencies and political realities on the ground, in attempting to achieve the water related SDGs.

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