Cultural Waters: Values of Water Resources in Hidalgo, Mexico
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The availability of clean water is fundamental to the survival of all living things. Humans have altered fresh water cycles in a number of ways that affect both water quality and quantity. This has led to a global water crisis where an estimated nine million people are without access to a clean and reliable source of water. Yet water is more than a basic need, more than a physical resource. As a facet of daily life for communities all over the world, water carries many different cultural values and meanings. These values and meanings, in turn, have a strong influence on how people use water and how they relate to sources and suppliers of water. My study examined the complex and global challenge of managing water by focusing on cultural values and meanings about water on a local scale. I took an ethnographic approach to understanding the relationship between cultural values and water resources in the Sierra y Huasteca region of Hidalgo state in East-Central Mexico. Through participant observation, semi-structured household interviews and key informant interviews I: 1) described how water is used, obtained and managed; 2) evaluated local concerns about water management and access; and 3) compare two different water management systems; a communally managed system and a municipally managed system. My research resulted in three major findings. These were: 1) water scarcity is the main water concern in the two communities, which people attribute to deforestation; 2) despite considerable differences between the communities the primary concerns and values of water are the same; and 3) growing concern about water and other resources may be resulting in an increased environmental consciousness among the people in the two communities. This research contributes to practical, policy, and scholarly discussions about the relationships between humans and their natural resources. Understanding local social and cultural values can help in the effort to find equitable and feasible solutions to the global water crisis.
Hurst, Kristin (2013). Cultural Waters: Values of Water Resources in Hidalgo, Mexico. Master's thesis, Texas A&M University. Available electronically from