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Breaking out of the governance trap in rural Mexico

Antonio Cáñez-Cota
Catedrático CONACYT-CIESAS-CIDIGLO, Guadalajara, Jalisco, México; acanez@conacyt.mx

Nicolás Pineda-Pablos
El Colegio de Sonora, Hermosillo, Sonora, México; npineda@colson.edu.mx

ABSTRACT: The purpose of this study is to explain the governance trap afflicting water agencies of rural municipalities in the Mexican state of Sonora. This trap is based on hierarchical governance arrangements of low complexity that produce a short-term vision. Organisations are isolated from one another, governance mechanisms are closed, and an atmosphere of distrust prevails among stakeholders, resulting in a lack of coordination and the loss of resources, including water. We show how a multiple-use water services scheme can become a governance trap when it allows the over-exploitation of a single source of drinking water by users who do not pay for the service, in locations where the majority of water users have the ability to pay. The study reviews the evidence of two rural regions in Sonora, Mexico. It explains how a past intermunicipal experience failed, and also suggests how a new scheme of intermunicipal authorities could break such governance traps. Specifically, it provides evidence that in small communities, collaborative large-scale arrangements for water governance are more effective than they are in a single municipality. Building governance capacities within and between water agencies and users would thus be advantageous. Although intermunicipal bodies are more complex than traditional arrangements, requiring additional time and resources for decision-making, they result in more sustainable decisions.

KEYWORDS: Governance trap, intermunicipal water authorities, capacity building, water governance, rural regions, Mexico