Desalination and water security: The promise and perils of a technological fix to the water crisis in Baja California Sur, Mexico

Jamie McEvoy
Department of Earth Sciences, Montana State University, Bozeman, MT, USA; jamie.mcevoy@montana.edu

ABSTRACT: Across the globe, desalination is increasingly being considered as a new water supply source. This article examines how the introduction of desalinated water into the municipal water supply portfolio has affected water security in the coastal tourist city of Cabo San Lucas in Baja California Sur (BCS), Mexico. It also analyses the competing discourses surrounding desalination in the region and discusses alternative water management options for achieving water security. This article challenges the notion that desalination is an appropriate and sufficient technological solution for arid regions. The findings provide evidence of increased yet delimited water security at a neighbourhood scale while identifying new vulnerabilities related to desalination, particularly in the context of the global South. This article concludes that implementing a technological fix on top of a water management system that is plagued with more systemic and structural problems does little to improve long-term water management and is likely to foreclose or forestall other water management options. This multi-scalar analysis contributes to the emerging literature on water security by considering both a narrow and broad framing of water security and identifying a range of factors that influence water security.

KEYWORDS: Water security, desalination, adaptive water management, Los Cabos, Baja California Sur, Mexico