Bee mietii rak rkabni nis (The people know how to seed water) : A Zapotec experience in adapting to water scarcity and drought

Basel, Britt; Hernández Quiroz, Nadir; Velasco Herrera, Roberto; Santiago Alonso, Carmen; Hoogesteger, Jaime


We are facing a global water crisis exacerbated by hydro-climatic extremes related to climate change. Water scarcity is expected to increasingly affect indigenous and marginalized populations. Supporting the sovereignty of indigenous and rural populations to create water secure futures through place-based knowledge, local management, and Community-based Adaptation (CBA) measures may help tackle this crisis. Zapotec communities in Oaxaca, Mexico have self-organized for collective action to use Managed Aquifer Recharge (MAR) to address water scarcity, resulting in a perceived increase of groundwater availability. Treating groundwater as a common-pool resource (CPR) within a sociohydrological system, the objectives of this paper are two-fold: (1) to explore how MAR may be implemented as a CBA measure, and (2) to understand what factors triggered and/or enabled the widespread implementation of MAR by Zapotec indigenous communities in the Valles Centrales of Oaxaca, Mexico. In doing so, we aim to get a better understanding of local processes while also furthering theories that relate to CBA, CPR, and sociohydrology. This paper was born from the desire of the Zapotec community members to share their experience and lessons learned so other drought-vulnerable communities might benefit.