Praying and cloud seeding are among the strategies residents and authorities are using in drought-plagued northern Mexico in the hope of provoking rain.
The drought is so dire in Cajeme, Sonora, that Catholics will gather at a local dam this Sunday to pray for rain.
The bishop of the diocese of Ciudad Obregón – the municipal seat of Cajeme – will officiate at a “Mass for rain” at the lookout of the Álvaro Obregón Dam at 10 a.m.
“Together in prayer for rain,” declares an invitation to the event that has been circulating on social media. “Officiated by Monsignor Felipe Pozos, we’re all invited to attend and join together in prayer for this much needed gift.”
The Álvaro Obregón Dam, also known as the Oviáchic Dam, is the largest dam on the Yaqui River but is currently at just 16.6% of capacity, according to the National Water Commission (Conagua). Adequate supply for agricultural purposes and human consumption is at risk due to the critically low level.
Cajeme resident Nadia Soto is so concerned about the lack of water in the dam that she has taken to social media to urge people to limit their water use. She has also affixed signs to houses to encourage people to be more careful with their water usage.
“[I’m] trying to raise awareness about the rational use of the liquid. I put a poster outside my house, on the homes of two aunts and on the corner store. They’re not the most beautiful or striking signs, but I think they could raise awareness among those who see them,” Soto told the newspaper El Universal.
“I invite you to also put a sign outside your home that makes us … remember … that we must take care of water,” she said.
Another place where the lack of water is a major concern is Nuevo León capital Monterrey, where water restrictions are in place.
More than 5 million residents of the greater metropolitan area of Monterrey have only been able to access water for six hours per day – 4 a.m. to 10 a.m. – since late last week.
“The situation is very critical, the lack of water affects us a lot, especially children and older people,” Mercedes Lugo, a resident of the municipality of Apodaca, told the news agency AFP this week as she received a ration of water from a pipa, or water tank truck.
Rogelio Hernández, another Apodaca resident, said that barely any water ran through pipes last week and complained that restrictions have caused bottled water to disappear from shelves.
“[Last week] there wasn’t even water in shops; it ran out here. There wasn’t water anywhere in the neighborhood, not even to drink,” he said.
Dams in Nuevo León and other northern states are also at critically low levels. A recent Conagua map shows that large parts of Coahuila, Chihuahua, Sonora and Baja California are experiencing extreme drought, with smaller sections of the first two states plagued by even worse “exceptional drought” conditions.
In Nuevo León, authorities are carrying out cloud seeding missions in the hope of spurring rainfall. On Facebook on Thursday, Governor Samuel García shared footage of a plane carrying out a cloud seeding operation and declared that “intense rain” had begun in the municipality of General Terán.
“In the government of the new Nuevo León, we’re striving every day, seeking solutions and doing everything we can to combat the scarcity of water,” he wrote above the video.
Cloud seeding, which uses silver iodide and other chemicals to thicken clouds and thus increase the probability of rain, has previously been carried out in Mexico by the air force.
García announced earlier this week that Nuevo León had spent about 70 million pesos (US $3.5 million) on a King Air aircraft to carry out cloud seeding missions. The governor, who took office last October, traveled to Mexico City to meet with federal Interior Minister Adán Augusto López on Thursday to discuss Nuevo León’s water crisis.
“The interior minister just told me that the president … gives his complete support to Nuevo León on the issue of water,” he said in a video message. “They’re going to give instructions to Conagua to … [crack down] hard on all [incidents of water] wastage,” García said.
The governor also announced Thursday that a Monterrey car wash had been shut down due to its irresponsible use of water.
“We said that we were going to act against anyone … [wasting water] and we’re keeping our word,” he wrote on social media. “We’re going through a water crisis, and if we want to get out of it, we all need to … [fight] it together.”