The levels of corruption with regard to water management in Mexico revealed


In three years there were 77 concessions in places with water deficit; corruption causes that 3 out of 5 bodies of surface water are contaminated

Corruption in Mexico in the water sector is worrying. Its existence favors overexploitation and contamination of the liquid; it affects ecosystems and the population; and prevents the guarantee of the human right to a healthy environment, to health and access to drinking water and sanitation.

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In the study “Corruption in the Water Sector in Mexico. Who is responsible for the crisis?”, From Ethos Public Policy Laboratory, researchers Rodrigo Bolaños, Dalia Toledo and Cuauhtémoc Osorno, reveal how corruption occurs in water management in Mexico and who are involved.

The study explores six areas of corruption risk: the granting of permits to extract and make use of the nation’s waters (concessions); wastewater regulation; the operation of the agencies responsible for bringing water to each household (operating agencies); the factors behind the theft of water (clandestine shots); hydraulic works and the generation and publication of data.

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The Ethos study reveals that between April 2015 and December 2018, at least 77 concessions were granted in overexploited bodies and these were mostly for uses other than human consumption.

In addition, concessions are granted with inadequate information (incomplete, inappropriate and incorrect), without following due procedures and without the vision of guaranteeing the sustainability of water resources.


Three out of every five bodies of surface water in Mexico have some degree of non-compliance in the parameters to measure their quality. In groundwater, they are one in two. Even INEGI estimates that the costs of environmental damage caused by pollution are 41.5 thousand million pesos.

There are various causes of corruption in this regard. Lack of supervision is one of the main ones. In spite of that, both the Conagua and the Federal Attorney for Environmental Protection (Profepa) have suffered cuts in their budget to just over half, 53 and 55 percent, respectively, between 2012 and 2019. In addition, the Conagua only It has 149 inspectors to review more than 500 thousand titles.

Although the inspection is carried out, the industries were found to bribe inspectors with up to 20 percent of the value of the “avoided fine.”


Corruption in water operators has direct consequences on the well-being of people, since they are responsible for providing the liquid to the population. There are about 2,688 at the municipal, intermunicipal or state level. However, due to poor management, currently 3 out of 10 households do not have water daily and 3 out of 4 people believe that the water is not healthy to drink.

According to INEGI, 7 out of 100 people report corruption in municipal services such as the request for water pipes. Among businesses, 70 out of every thousand have been victims when they request feasibility studies of water and drainage. This is caused by the lack of clear regulations, weak counterweights and poor transparency in its management.

The opacity is widespread in the operating agencies. The main program to know their performance is voluntary affiliation (PIGOO). Only 7.4 percent of the operating agencies participate in it, and on average they deliver only 13 of the 29 existing indicators.


The Ethos Public Policy Laboratory study indicates that the existence of clandestine wells is extremely serious. From 2012 to 2018, Conagua found 2,280. To this is added the uncertainty about how much water is extracted from them since most are located in overexploited areas.

Along with the clandestine wells, there is also the phenomenon of smuggling that occurs when officials connect new users to the public network without complying with the procedures or extracting water from the network to sell it through pipes.

Resultado de imagen para Revelan el nivel de corrupción con manejo del agua en Mexico


The fifth link in the corruption chain is the hydraulic works that are carried out so that the water can be captured, stored and used for different purposes. Generally, these are large or complex, with numerous resources; These factors make monitoring and control difficult, so they are susceptible to corruption.

Corruption finds a place in decisions throughout the process that results in increases in costs, delays, and delivery of poor quality projects.


Finally, the Ethos Laboratory study addresses the lack of information. It highlights the lack of updated and complete data on the subject, which prevents establishing sufficient and adequate instruments for its effective administration or conservation, which allows the problems to be eradicated, such as pollution and overexploitation, to prevail.

This problem is reflected, for example, in that currently, it is not possible to know how much water is destined for fracking, or that the authorities do not explain why some inspections are made and others are not.

The lack of important data on water resources also creates corruption risks, as officials can hide discretionary decisions or acts of corruption behind incomplete and outdated information.

The full study «Corruption in the Water Sector in Mexico. Who is responsible for the crisis? »Is available on

About Ethos Public Policy Laboratory:

Ethos Laboratorio is a think tank with ten years of experience, which transforms research and experiences into clear recommendations and concrete public policy actions that address the most relevant problems and the main challenges for the development and progress of Mexico and Latin America.

Ethos is a non-profit, independent and non-profit organization that is financed by contributions from individuals and international organizations, with periodic contributions and / or projects.

The Ethos team is multidisciplinary and international, with economists, lawyers, political scientists, communicators, and designers, with varied experience in government and politics, academia and the social sector, motivated to produce comprehensive and innovative research and proposals.

Source: excelsior

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