Environmental flows and water reserves: Principles, strategies, and contributions to water and conservation policies in Mexico

Sergio A. Salinas-Rodríguez, Jorge E. Barrios-Ordóñez, Rafael Sánchez-Navarro, Albertus J. Wickel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)
27 Downloads (Pure)


Since the Brisbane Declaration in 2007, implementation of environmental flows in public policies has witnessed a steady increase around the globe. Environmental water reserves are an annual volume that is designated to remain in the ecosystem for the sustainable management of river basins. In Mexico, these reserves are determined on the basis of the Mexican Environmental Flows Norm and must be established at a river basin scale through a presidential decree for 50 years. In this manuscript, we present and discuss the implementation strategy of the norm developed for the National Water Reserves for the Environment Program, and its results in 25 reference sites based on environmental flow assessments conducted from 2012 to 2015 using hydrological and holistic methodologies. An analytical evaluation revealed an overall consistency between the Norm's environmental objectives (baseline) and the current ecological conditions on-site for the 80% of the cases (96% over high confidence rating). Furthermore, in 72% of the reference sites, the coefficient of variation among the reserve's was below the fourth quartile (<11%), whereas those remaining above that limit can be attributed to a difference in the methods' hydrologic scope. The recommended volumes for environmental allocation are feasible under the current water availability conditions in the 94% of the river basins. Although challenges have appeared in the process, to date, one reserve has been decreed on the basis of the strategic approach of setting sustainable limits of water allocation and being built an enriched flow-ecology relationships' understanding system, urgently needed to prevent ecosystems degradation and secure ecological processes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1057-1084
JournalRiver Research and Applications
Issue number8
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 1 Jan 2018


  • environmental flows
  • environmental objectives
  • environmental water reserve
  • hydrological and holistic methodologies
  • Mexican norm
  • river basin

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