What Do Environmental Flows Mean for Long-Term Freshwater Ecosystems’ Protection? Assessment of the Mexican Water Reserves for the Environment Program

Sergio A. Salinas Rodriquez, Everardo Barba-Macías, Dulce Infante Mata, Mariana Zareth Nava-López, Iris Neri-Flores, Ricardo Domínguez Varela, Ignacio D. González Mora

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Abstract

Almost a decade ago, the Mexican government targeted to establish environmental water reserves (EWR)—a volume of water allocated for ecological protection based on the Environmental Flow Mexican Norm (eflows, NMX-AA-159-SCFI-2012, ratified in 2017)—in strategic low-pressured for water use and high conservation importance river basins throughout the country. To date, 12 EWRs have been declared for up to 50 years, which encompass 295 river basins and ~55% of the national mean annual runoff (MAR). In this article, we conducted a quality evaluation of the EWRs established. First, the EWR level was analyzed against the MAR and according to wider hydrological conditions. The EWR fulfillment was evaluated by comparing the volumes enacted against the theoretical (Norm implementation). Our findings revealed that independently of individual and regional water use and conservation merits context, ~75% of the EWRs met theoretical volumes at least at an acceptable level, of which medians ranged from 24% to 73% MAR (natural parametrization and A–D environmental objectives). These outcomes prove the usefulness and consistency of the Mexican strategic hierarchical approach for eflow assessments. We aim for them to be considered as the baseline for future on-site eflow implementation and environmental water policy assessments, to show the nationwide potential benefits for protecting free-flowing rivers and to encourage a regional escalation of the strategy.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1240
Pages (from-to)1-28
Number of pages28
JournalSustainability
Volume13
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2021

Keywords

  • Environmental flows
  • Environmental water reserve
  • Hydrological region
  • National program
  • Quality assessment
  • Reference values
  • River basin

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