Sonora’s hydraulic society is a divided one. The water for the desert cities and agribusiness of the New Sonora comes largely from the rivers of the Old Sonora. The damming, draining, and diversion of the state’s rivers has sustained the population and economy of western Sonora.
Rivers like deserts don’t respect international boundaries. The Yaqui River established the natural foundation for the agricultural development in the 20th century of the arid coastal plains of southeastern Sonora. But the Yaqui River was problematic for agricultural investors.
Hydraulic megaprojects will keep Sonora “competitive and sustainable” and create a “Nuevo Sonora,” declared Governor Guillermo Padrés at the start of his six-year term (2009-2015). Elsewhere, local and national governments and international institutions are shifting their focus away from megaprojects like dams.
Sonoran Governor Padrés launched a package of water megaprojects, including an aqueduct to transfer water from the Yaqui River to the depleted Sonora River basin, as part of the Sonora SI in 2010. Yaqui opposition to the aqueduct, water contamination and the discovery that the governor had illegally built dams on his family’s ranch has cast a shadow on the governor’s promise of a New Sonora.
When you cross into Sonora from Arizona, you leave one hydraulic society and enter another. Both states are at risk. Their medium-term water futures are uncertain. The water megaprojects – dams, reservoirs, aqueducts, and cement irrigation canals – that have made the Sonoran Desert bloom with farms and cities are no longer sufficient.
A series by Tom Barry of the CIP TransBorder Project that takes an in-depth look at the water crisis on the U.S.-Mexico border. Part One: How the Mexican border state of Sonora is rushing forward with more water-management projects in response to escalating water crisis.
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