The University of Arizona

From water abundance to water scarcity: the case of the Chontalpa, Mexico

Gisela Lanzas


This article uses original ethnographic data to show how a development program known as Plan Chontalpa failed to extend potable water provision to rural people in Chontalpa, in Tabasco, Mexico. Despite arguably short-term benefits, this large state-led, large-scale hydrodevelopment program created overly large infrastructures and imposed a hierarchical water management regime on previously open-access water resources, negatively impacting the communities it purported to serve. This article demonstrates how, in lieu of the vulnerabilities created by the Plan, residents have resiliently devised their own water management system that combines customary techniques, such as harvesting rainwater, with formal and informal ones. In conclusion, this article insists that water management resilient practices at the household level can teach us alternative ways of decision-making that can transform local development efforts.

Keywords: resilience, political ecology, water harvesting technique, household management, hydrodevelopment

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