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Water management strategies in urban Mexico: Limitations of the privatization debate

Barkin, David and Klooster, Daniel (2006): Water management strategies in urban Mexico: Limitations of the privatization debate.

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Abstract

Water management provides a critical lens onto the development process. For the last several centuries, improvements in clean water and sanitation have contributed to better health and increased life expectancies. Currently, however, developing countries seem unable to make much progress in bringing these benefits of development to significant sectors of their citizens. Water coverage is incomplete and water is of uneven quality. Just as serious, however, are the environmental impacts of water extraction, untreated sewage disposal, and the depletion of water sources through excessive withdrawals and pollution. In this research report, we present a framework for the analysis of the social appropriation of water based upon the concept of the New Culture of Water. Using that framework, we review the Mexican water sector in light of a set of original case studies. Although privatization might have some role to play in improving the performance of certain functions of water management agencies, it has clearly not proved superior to the public agencies we review. More importantly, however, the privatization solution has proved incapable of tackling the very serious problems of environmental destruction and the over-exploitation of finite water sources that plague the country. Our review of water management in Mexico, therefore, sheds light on some of the contradictions of a development process that is far from sustainable.

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