Mexico: Chihuahua’s Devastating Drought

This is a lakebed, an hour from the city of Chihuahua. Locals say it used to be a permanent lake before turning seasonal. It has now been dry for more than a year. Image by Simeon Tegel. Mexico, 2012.

Arable land, a couple of hours northwest of the city of Chihuahua. Image by Simeon Tegel. Mexico, 2012.

Painfully thin, this cow will likely die in a couple of months unless it rains within the next few weeks, giving pasture time to grow. Image by Simeon Tegel. Mexico, 2012.

Cattle carcasses lie in Chihuahua’s fields. So far, around 350,000 have starved to death due to a lack of pasture caused by the drought. Image by Simeon Tegel. Mexico, 2012.

The wind whips the dust up from the bone-dry fields littered with the desiccated remains of beef herds. Image by Simeon Tegel. Mexico, 2012.

Farmer Alejandro Rodriguez switches on the pump to irrigate his peach and apple trees with water from the aquifer. His monthly electricity bill for pumping the water up from a depth of 350 ft. can reach $10,000, a figure that increases every year as the water table gradually continues falling. Image by Simeon Tegel. Mexico, 2012.

In the last 12 months an estimated 350,000 cattle have died in Chihuahua, the largest of Mexico’s 32 states, due to the worst drought on record. No rain means no pasture and local ranchers are desperate. So are the farmers. In 2011, Chihuahua’s corn harvest, which normally totals around 100,000 metric tons, yielded just 500 metric tons. Meanwhile, local aquifers are at their lowest levels ever, and falling by several feet a year. In some areas, without hydrological studies, communities have no idea how much longer the aquifers will last. As they wait anxiously for rain, one of Latin America’s leading climate change scientists, Dr Carlos Gay, of Mexico City’s UNAM university, has warned that the region’s climate may have already changed.