Geography of water in Mexico

Geography of water, environmental conflicts, and social alternatives in the Santiago river watershed, Mexico

water governance mexico
Multi-stakeholder discussion about El Zapotillo, an ambitious dam project located in Jalisco, Mexico, that would involve relocating hundreds of residents. Photo: G. Espinoza

Key messages

  • The social conflicts around the dam construction demonstrate the state’s failure to protect human rights of the people affected
  • Local resistance strategies revolve around the values of environmental justice
  • By claiming environmental justice, local people resist the commodification of water promoted by private companies and the state
  • As an alternative to governing water as a public good they struggle for self-governance of water resources
water governance mexico
Presenting “Silent River”, a documentary film about the Santiago River and its socio-environmental problems. Photo: R.H. Gutiérrez


For ten years, the inhabitants of Temacapulín, Acasico, and Palmarejo in Jalisco, Mexico, have resisted the disappearance of their village, which lies in the perimeter of a huge dam project. The creation of alliances and networks with national and international organizations have been a promising strategy for resisting the project promoted by local and regional elites. These alliances have helped local people to maintain their voices in the public debates, despite control of the media by the elites, who have been shown to misuse their power to monopolize decision-making regarding natural resources.

water governance
Los Altos de Jalisco council for water management. Photo: H. Ochoa


The objective of this research is to develop alternatives for more sustainable regional water governance, including the co-production of knowledge and its validation by key local stakeholders in the Verde River watershed and the Guadalajara city region in Mexico.

Project duration: 2013-2017

Institutional settings

This research is based on collaboration between the Jesuit University of Guadalajara (ITESO) in Mexico and CDE (University of Bern). It includes a PhD of Heliodoro Ochoa from ITESO.