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Chiapas Article

Pushing Water Privatization in Mexico

In 2002, the World Bank gave Conagua (the National Water Commission) a $250 million loan to create a program called PROMAGUA. PROMAGUA is part of a new infrastructure financing fund that provides loans to municipalities to upgrade and expand their water systems if they negotiate public private partnerships (privatization), reform their state water laws, and impose full cost recovery.

This has already created a small backlash. For example, in the town of Saltillo, which was one of the first cities to receive a PROMAGUA loan, there is now a vibrant citizen's coalition to get SUEZ out. When the PROMAGUA official at a recent conference used the Saltillo "success story" story in her flashy power point presentation the Saltillo citizen's coalition was right there with lots of facts showing that this was far from a success story!

Other cities with major privatization contracts include Puerto Vallarta, Aguascalientes, and Cancun. There are smaller service contracts in a number of major cities such as Puebla and Mexico City. And, a good number coming down the pike pushed by the PROMAGUA infrastructure fund. In Mexico City service contracts with Suez, Vivendi and United Utilities (Bechtel) have pushed forward the installation of water meters which has caused a backlash because many of the poorer neighborhoods want to retain a "cuota fija" (fixed cuota) system where there payment is adjusted based on average income in a neighborhood or district using census figures.

Many neighborhoods are suspicious that they will pay higher rates if they get meters and have organized to maintain the "cuota fija." All in all it was a real inspiration to connect with water activist groups in Mexico. We need to work hard to build the connections between our campaigns!

(report by Sara Grusky from Water and Public-Private Partnerships conference in Mexico City) Sara Grusky International Water Working Group Water for All Campaign Public Citizen Phone: (202) 454-5133 Website:

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