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Mexico Battles Water Theft by Farmers as Drought Continues


Authorities are attempting to combat water theft from canals in the Culiacán Valley, an area in Mexico’s Sinaloa state that is suffering severe drought.

Carlos Ontiveros Salas, Culiacán’s secretary of Public Security and Municipal Transportation, said farmers keep stealing water despite warnings from authorities and confiscation of pumps. He noted that there had been several cases where authorities had removed pumps from an area, only to find new ones installed days later.

While they are patrolling the area, state authorities cannot stop people from stealing water; they can only take their equipment, he said.

Location of Sinaloa State, Mexico. The Culiacan Valley is in the middle of the state.

“It is an area that falls under federal jurisdiction, so it is the National Water Commission (Conagua) who must file complaints against those who are responsible, and we cannot do anything,” he said.

Criminal charges have been brought for water theft in the municipality of Ahome, in the northwest of Sinaloa state, where armed groups, some with links to farmers, are operating, Vanguardia newspaper reported.

Theft of approximately 50 percent of the water from canals supplying the San Lorenzo treatment plant caused 80 communities in the south of Culiacán to lose water service, said Ontiveros Salas.

The general manager of the Culiacán Water and Sewerage Board, Jesús Higuera Laura, said theft has not caused any other shortages since that incident. He exhorted farmers not to steal any more water, however, as there is hardly enough for human consumption as it is, with dam levels currently in critical condition.

Mariano Aguirre Gómez, the president of Culiacán’s employer’s confederation, said that the drought, as well as earlier frosts, mean a bleak economic outlook for the state.

Vanguardia reported that farmers were predicting agricultural yields would be half the normal amount this year.