Global analyses have revealed virtual drains and gains of water between trading countries, with Mexico ranking as one of the countries with the fastest increase in unsustainable water consumption in agriculture for export markets, since 2000. It is unclear, however, how Mexico has reshaped its crop production and associated reliance on freshwater resources to satisfy growing domestic and international markets, especially the United States (US). While the Mexico-US partnership has been identified as one supported by unsustainable irrigation water, the spatial understanding of its strain on water resources has remained at the national scale and without context of the crops driving the change. In this analysis, we focus on the evolution of Mexican agriculture since 1994, the year the North American Free Trade Agreement was enacted, to identify hotspots of water unsustainability in crop production in the domestic and US supply chain. Using a global process-based crop water model, we find that between 1994 and 2015, rainwater (or 'green' water) and irrigation (or 'blue') water consumed in the production of crops increased by one fourth nationally, while water in crops exported to the US doubled. Virtual export of blue water embodied in the trade of berries increased five orders of magnitude; a substantial growth in blue water export was also associated with trade to the US of cereals, fruits, nuts, vegetables, pulses, and tubers. Our results show that in Mexico irrigated water plays an increasingly prominent role in export agriculture, and that many healthy crops that dominate US imports from the world are grown in water scarce Mexican municipalities relying on unsustainable irrigation practices. This serves as a warning for the sustainability of future Mexican healthy food supplies, both for the domestic market and for export to the US.

A growing produce bubble: United States produce tied to Mexico's unsustainable agricultural water use

Chiarelli D. D.;Rulli M. C.;
2021-01-01

Abstract

Global analyses have revealed virtual drains and gains of water between trading countries, with Mexico ranking as one of the countries with the fastest increase in unsustainable water consumption in agriculture for export markets, since 2000. It is unclear, however, how Mexico has reshaped its crop production and associated reliance on freshwater resources to satisfy growing domestic and international markets, especially the United States (US). While the Mexico-US partnership has been identified as one supported by unsustainable irrigation water, the spatial understanding of its strain on water resources has remained at the national scale and without context of the crops driving the change. In this analysis, we focus on the evolution of Mexican agriculture since 1994, the year the North American Free Trade Agreement was enacted, to identify hotspots of water unsustainability in crop production in the domestic and US supply chain. Using a global process-based crop water model, we find that between 1994 and 2015, rainwater (or 'green' water) and irrigation (or 'blue') water consumed in the production of crops increased by one fourth nationally, while water in crops exported to the US doubled. Virtual export of blue water embodied in the trade of berries increased five orders of magnitude; a substantial growth in blue water export was also associated with trade to the US of cereals, fruits, nuts, vegetables, pulses, and tubers. Our results show that in Mexico irrigated water plays an increasingly prominent role in export agriculture, and that many healthy crops that dominate US imports from the world are grown in water scarce Mexican municipalities relying on unsustainable irrigation practices. This serves as a warning for the sustainability of future Mexican healthy food supplies, both for the domestic market and for export to the US.
2021
agriculture and irrigation systems
diet
sustainability
water and food security
water resources
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/11311/1206833
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