“There are two Easy Ways to Die in the Desert: Thirst and Drowning.” From the cover of the book The Secret Knowledge of Water by Craig Childs. The wall of course is being built in the desert so I read this book to understand the desert as it always has been and will remain; although we live it in and try to change its ways. Once of the most striking thing I read was that stream beds that are dry in the day often have water at night because the trees near the stream, use the water during the day for the chlorophyll process and at night when that stops the stream fills with water. That is rather a magical though to me.
Different organizations map the water holes throughout the desert. He states that there are no people here because they die. From the book “As in stories I have heard from Mount Everest, where bodies of climbers are dispersed among glaciers, bodies here are turned to bones and spread across the sand and gravel and in the rocks.” Then he tells of imigrants being left to die with not enough water while trying to cross the border; but then most of us know that but try not to think of it.
But the book is also filled with stories of exploring hidden caves full of water and incredible water falls when it rains. And of course the floods when it rains and how people who have lived here their whole lives are sometimes still caught by how fast a wash can become flooded. Terrifying and beautiful at the same time.
The other book Was Divided Waters by Helen Ingram, Nancy K. Laney, and David M. Gillilan. The book was written in 1995 so some of the information was dated. However it gave me knowledge about the politics of water in a city divided by two separate governments and the different ways that they solve problems. Also how community development, housing and economics are so different in how they are valued, assigned and carried out and how they also affect water. Finally the results water passing back and forth across an international boundary.
In Mexico everything is owned by the Central Government and they determine what happens even on a local level. In the past water was seen as a right of everyone and people often felt they shouldn’t pay for water service. In the United States things like water are locally controlled. People assume they will pay the utility companies for bringing water into their home and taking away the sewage. Local Utilities will cut off supply if a resident does not pay while in Mexico they are more lenient.
So Governments have a hard time talking to each other as employees of local jurisdiction from the US have a hard time getting the attention of similar employees in the Central government of Mexico.
Add to this that the US builds maquilas in the mexico and pays the works a very low wage. they work six days a week. In 1993 the pay for an unskilled workers including all vacation pay and fringe benefits was just over $4 a day. Further the Maquilas pay little tax to help the community where they are located and one of the reasons they are located in Mexico besides the low pay rate is the lack of control on the environment.
So we have factories that pollute and many people who work in them that cannot only afford the water they need to live they cannot afford to have a sewer. The water collects and flows not south further into Mexico but north into the United States but first it pollutes the ground water and many shallow wells. The wells are further polluted by chemicals and then used to clean vegetables and fruits headed into the United States. So if you are so inclined to think that they reap what they sow and if they can’t control this problem they deserve the consequences you may want to think again. I did some updated research and found that the United States has since built a water cleaning station that cleans the water from both sides of the border. So if you think about it; American taxes are being used for cleaning up after the maquiladoras which are in fact built by Americans who don’t want to pay taxes in the United States.
Another thing that was fascinating was that employees of these factories spent 30 percent of their earnings on the US side of the border. Of course then they could walk through holes in the fence and not bother with officially going through channels. Once that because more difficult the economic benefits slowed down substantially.
So while we all know water is the basis for life and that it can sometimes be beautiful and sometimes deadly; I didn’t realize all the political ramifications of it crossing a border.