Mexico running out of water because Americans are drinking so much Mexican beer
“WE HAVE NO WATER FOR HUMAN CONSUMPTION.”
In one of the most arid, unforgiving deserts in North America, Mexicans are running out of water. Not because of drought or any kind of natural shortage, but because it’s all being used to make beer for Americans…
Yes, that six pack of Corona you bought for the weekend comes at a price beyond the $11 you spent on it. Because the water used to brew it, was essentially stolen straight out from underneath a bunch of helpless, thirsty Mexican municipalities. Municipalities that are running out of this crucial resource fast.
A new deal between Constellation Brands (America’s third largest brewing company, who makes Corona, Modelo and Pacifico) and the state government of Baja California, okayed the construction of a huge new $1 billion brewery in a town called Mexicali, just a few miles south of the border. And the facility is going to drain an already parched landscape of whatever water might be accessible, there. Leaving the locals (quite literally) hanging out to dry.
“They’re managing the water as if it were loot to be divvied up among them,” Carmelo Gallegos, a Mexicali farmer, told the Guardian. “The government’s intention is to leave us with nothing, without land and without water.”
This new plant will begin production in 2019, and locals, many of whom are farmers, are concerned for their future and their livelihood once it does.
“They’re being naive if they think this [brewery] will not cause water problems in the Mexicali valley,” another farmer, Ernesto Diaz, told the Guardian.
The construction project has given rise to a movement called “Mexicali Resists” — an activist group that is fighting to keep their water and slow (if not halt completely) the construction of this new Constellation brewery. Last summer, thousands of protestors tried to block the construction of a new water pipeline running to the facility.
“We’re already having water shortages,” Ana López, one of those protestors, told the Guardian. “Now imagine when the plant starts working.”
In 2010 Mexico surpassed the Netherlands as the world’s largest exporter of beer, and not necessarily by choice. More and more mega-breweries have been sprouting up just south of the border (almost exclusively owned by American companies), and in almost every instance they’ve raised concerns about water usage. In one case, several years ago, the mayor of a town called Zaragosa wrote a single sentence letter to his state governor, that elegantly sums up the problem:
“WE HAVE NO WATER FOR HUMAN CONSUMPTION,” was all he wrote.
This issue is largely the result of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which turned Mexico’s economy into one that is almost entirely dependent on exports. When the agreement was signed over 25 years ago foreign manufacturers overwhelmed places like Tijuana, Zaragosa, and (you guessed it) Mexicali. Manufacturers who wanted cheap labor and cheap resources — like water.
Sure, they could have built this new Constellation brewery several miles north, on US soil — after all, Constellation is an American company (even if they specialize in making “Mexican” beer). But if they had done that, obtaining the rights to all the water they will need would have been both expensive and legally challenging. In Mexicali, Mexico, however, they can tap into the same aquifer for a fraction of the price. Not only that, but they can hire Mexican laborers for pennies on the dollar — labor that would have cost them at least minimum wage in the US — and they can sell their product in the US as an "Export Beer" even though it was made only a stone's throw from the US.
Its exploitation. There’s really no other way to frame it. Constellation Brands is using these people’s water to make a product that will be sold in another country, to the benefit of a massive private corporate entity. An entity that doesn’t give a damn about whether or not these people have access to the most basic necessity known to man.
And there’s almost nothing that The People can do to stop it. They’re being squeezed, stolen from and used and they know it — but they’re helpless to stand up against the power of a company like Constellation. Especially when that company is in cahoots with the state government.
So, next time you’re in the beer aisle eyeing that cold sixer of Corona, Modelo, or Pacifico, consider the true cost of that beverage. Think of the farmers and innocent citizens who are going thirsty, watching their lands desiccate like a sponge left in the sun, so those bottles can sit on our shelves.