Its effects, scope, reactions and differences with USA.
By: Terry Ahtziry Cardenas Banda, lawyer and former professor.
Last December of 2016, the Congress of the State of Baja California in Mexico approved a new law of general observance in the State of Baja California: The Water Law for the State of Baja California (Water Law). The provisions of this law are of public order and social interest, and the law is responsible for regulating the exploitation, use, administration, control and supply of waters under state jurisdiction, as well as those obtained through concessions or allocations granted by the Federation; the control and evaluation of water resources and the conservation, protection and preservation of their quantity and quality, as well as the provision of potable water, drainage and sewage services, as established in Article 1 of the mentioned law.
First, it is important to mention that in Mexico by constitutional mandate, water is the property of the State and the State oversees its administration and supply. The Water Law within its provisions establishes the creation of two metropolitan bodies for the distribution of the resource, in addition to the authorization of a concession for its operation, and a monthly update of the cost of water service. The Water Law in its article 117 establishes that the rates of water services will be updated monthly, with the factor obtained by dividing the National Consumer Price Index of the last month immediately prior to the month by which it is done the adjustment, between the mentioned index of the penultimate month immediately prior to the same month that is updated. Chapter VIII of Water Law allows concessions to the private sector for the administration of water services. In addition, this law establishes a cut in water supply after 90 days of non-payment.
The approval of Water Law caused the rise of Baja California citizens, after seeing the possible privatization of water service and above all the increase of costs of this service, according to article 4 of the Constitution, all Mexicans have the right to access, disposal and sanitation of water for personal and domestic consumption in a sufficient, healthy, acceptable and affordable way; and it is the State’s obligation to guarantee this right. Therefore, the provisions of the new law to allow the operator to suppress the supply of water can be considered that violates the Mexican Constitution.
For the reasons given above on new regulations of the new water law, as well as, by different acts of government which put people in a state of defenselessness and extremely vulnerable, citizens of Baja California were unable to remain silent and they rose peacefully against the State, thousands of citizens participated in a strike to demand the repeal of the new state water law.
The beginning of the year was effusive for the State of Baja California since all its citizens gathered up, united and demanded the State the abrogation of the Water Law, among other demands, to the strike were added not only their citizens individually but private institutions. Democracy won, since the Governor of the State of Baja California Francisco Vega announced after the strikes that he sent Congress of the State the proposal of abrogation of the Water Law, with this the increases in the price of water where eliminated and he indicated that he will convoke academics, specialists and society in general with the purpose of creating a new system that will allow us to solve water issues.
At the moment, it is the task of Congress to determine the repeal of the Water Law, however, actions for the application of this law will not be taken. In water service, now, the same tariffs and services that currently exist in Mexico continue to exist, which is administered by the State Water Commission, however, there are still discontent, protests and discussions on this issue of water.
On the other side of the border, the government is obliged to provide its citizens with the supply of water and sanitation, and it does it through regulatory commissions. The United States Environmental Protection Agency classifies water services as a Public Water System (PWS), PWSs in the United States, are either publicly owned, cooperatives or privately owned. Utilities in charge of public water supply and sanitation systems can be owned, financed, operated and maintained by a public entity, a private company or both can share responsibilities through a public-private partnership. Utilities can either oversee only water supply and/or sanitation, or they can also handle other services, like electricity and gas.