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Health Care and Americans Retiring in Mexico

Discussion of Key Findings - Water conservation

The availability of water is a national security issue in Mexico. Over twenty percent of households are not connected to water infrastructure; fifteen percent lack potable drinking water.45 Average daily per capita water use in Mexico was 366 liters/day in 2002, compared to 575 liters/day in the U.S.46 And, although Mexico naturally produces twice the global average of water, it is concentrated in the southern part of the country, leaving the north vulnerable to water shortages. Infrastructure leaks in agricultural areas and illegal connections in urban zones have accelerated the pace of groundwater overexploitation in many parts of the country.


In La Paz, Harvard University and the University of Arizona researchers, led by Professor Carl Steinitz, determined that the aquifer providing municipal drinking water was already being overexploited and furthermore, that future water demand (based on municipal population growth projections) will result in saline intrusion in 25% of the wells that supply La Paz with fresh water.48

In Loreto, engineers at OOMSAPAL, the municipal water and sewer agency, estimated that 40% of Loreto’s freshwater supply was lost in the delivery system from the aquifer to local homes because of leaky pipes and aging infrastructure.49 The Harvard University and University of Arizona team estimated that additional pressure from accelerated development, combined with the infrastructure leaks, would cause saline intrusion in the local aquifer within 20 years.50 In comparison, a water leak audit in 47 California utilities found an average 10% loss and a range of 5-30% water loss from leaks.51

Municipal governments often propose desalination plants to offset the pressure on natural freshwater resources. Replacing natural processes with engineered infrastructure, however, means that fresh drinking water will be more expensive and possibly less affordable for locals. There are additional challenges related to near-shore habitats, coastal fisheries, and discharge of chemicals from the desalination process.

To avoid these challenges from the outset, potential homebuyers in Mexican coastal communities should ask about water-saving technology in the home, such as low-water use appliances and fixtures (faucets, showerheads and toilets), rainwater harvesting, and grey water irrigation for landscaping. Landscaping with native plants, succulents, and saline-tolerant plants, as well as permaculture, are other options for both consumers and developers. ICF survey respondents are already using less water, but it is unclear if they have reduced consumption or are using more waterefficient appliances and irrigation systems.


45 Commission for Environmental Cooperation, p53.
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46 United Nations Development Programme. Human Development Report, 2006. Accessed at
http://www.data360.org/dsg.aspx?Data_Set_Group_Id=757 on 12/10/2010.
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47 Steinitz, Carl, et.al. Alternative Futures for the Region of La Paz, Baja California Sur, 2004, p45.
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48 Ibid.
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49 Sherwood Design Engineers, Water Management Challenges in the Loreto Region, 2006, p10.
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50 Steinitz, Carl, et. al. Alternative Futures for the Region of Loreto, Baja California Sur, Mexico, 2005, p20.
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51 California Department of Water Resources. “Leak Detection Frequently Asked Questions,”
http://www.water.ca.gov/wateruseefficiency/leak/, accessed on 12/10/2010.
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