Americans’ taste for Mexican beer sucking up water supply, mayor says


Municipality near the US border says brewery that makes Corona, Modelo and other beers is using so much water from wells that region is becoming bone dry

A brewery satisfying Americans’ thirst for Mexican beers such as Corona is sucking so much water from wells in an arid region near the US border that it has left one municipality bone dry, according to a local mayor.

“WE HAVE NO WATER FOR HUMAN CONSUMPTION,” Mayor Leoncio Martínez Sánchez of the municipality of Zaragoza, wrote in single-sentence letter to Coahuila state governor Rubén Moreira.

Zaragoza is currently suffering through water shortages so severe “there’s barely a drop of water when you open the tap”, Martínez told the Guardian.

A nearby brewery run by the US firm Constellation Brands currently draws water from wells drilled to a depth of 500 metres, and Martínez said that plans to increase production at the plant would “aggravate” the current situation, especially as the federal government ramps up plans for fracking in northern Mexico.

“We’re worried because we’re already being impacted by this extraction of 1,200 litres of water per second” by the brewery, he said. “It’s contradictory that while Constellation Brands has industrial amounts of water to make beer, the municipality of Zaragoza doesn’t have 100 litres [per second of water] of water to give people to drink or use in their homes.”

The brewery – which sits in the municipality of Nava, 45 kilometres south of the US border at Eagle Pass, Texas – makes Corona and other brands of beer such as Modelo for export to the United States. Constellation Brands, which bought the plant in 2013, subsequently announced a $2.27bn investment to expand the facility and a glass factory, saying it would churn out 20m bottles of beer per day by the end of 2017.
Martínez says the deep wells supplying the brewery are located approximately 20 kilometres from the municipal seat and have caused water supply problems in Zaragoza since being drilled a decade ago.

“[The government] gave them this land and these wells on a silver platter,” he said.

Constellation Brands said in 2014 that the Nava brewery would implement water-conservation practices and recycle 30% of the water it uses. The expanded brewery would also create 2,500 jobs, the company said.

The Nava brewery owned by Constellation Brands.
The Nava brewery owned by Constellation Brands. Photograph: Constellation Brands
“These are erroneous comments,” brewery spokesman César Isidro Muñoz said of the mayor’s letter. “Even if the brewery did not exist, Zaragoza would still water problems.”

He added the brewery was built in an area with an abundance of water and that the local aquifer is recharged at a rate that is greater than the amount withdrawn to make beer.

Mexico has become one of the world’s biggest beer exporters over the past two decades – and the United States now imports more beer from Mexico than all other countries combined.

The Coahuila state government has disputed suggestions of a water crisis in the region, saying the shortages only impact two neighbourhoods, local media reported. It added that water delivery was a municipal responsibility.

Water crises are common in the region, said Raúl Pacheco-Vega, public administration professor at the Center for Research and Teaching in Economics

“Northern Mexico is extraordinarily dry and it has extreme climatic conditions. It doesn’t have a lot of rain, therefore, there is a lot of water scarcity,” he said. “Even though Mexico has a constitutional mandate to have water for everyone, we’re still privatizing it, we’re still giving concessions to private entities on the premise of bringing jobs.”



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