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Water, cities and peri-urban communities: Geographies of power in the context of drought in northwest Mexico

Rolando E. Díaz-Caravantes
El Colegio de Sonora, Hermosillo, Sonora, México; rdiaz@colson.edu.mx

Margaret Wilder
University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ, USA; mwilder@u.arizona.edu

ABSTRACT: The urban-peri-urban interaction is frequently studied with a focus on the necessities of urban expansion, chronicling the concerns of land annexation, housing construction and infrastructure. However, in arid regions such as Mexicoʼs drought-prone northwest, the research on peri-urban issues must increasingly focus on the under-examined issue of the power geometries that are reshaping the contours of access to water in fast-growing areas. This paper examines geographies of power of the urban-rural interface in Sonora, Mexico. Focused in the political ecology framework, we compare the success of Hermosilloʼs water supply projects while analysing some cases of peri-urban water users and grouping them into three general types: negotiation, passiveness and resistance, with large powerful water users, referred to in this paper as 'counterpoint cases'. We argue that urban water augmentation strategies reveal a distinct set of urban-peri-urban relations of unequal social power where peri-urban water resources are transferred to urban areas; reflecting, over the last three decades (1981-2010), the demands of powerful, politically connected urban populations and large irrigation districts. While during the same period, peri-urban small-scale communal farmers or ejidatarios lost access to their water as it was moved or used to supply the needs of Hermosilloʼs expansion.

KEYWORDS: Water, geography, power, peri-urban, ejidos, Mexico