Author Archives: Ana Sanchez-Bachman

Ana Sanchez-Bachman is a PhD student in Anthropology at SUNY Binghamton. Research interests include borders, environmental issues, migration and the many impacts of neoliberal policy. Specifically, they work in the U.S-Mexico border region.
An Image of Papago Well, a large water tank with a faucet. Behind it there is a metal windmill, and barely visible is the purple humane borders flag marking this as a location containing potable water. The water tank sits in a desert landscape, near a sandy road marked by tire tracks.

The Shifting Borders of Value: Water and Wellbeing along the U.S.-Mexico Border

Is access to water a right? Should water be free? Have you ever stopped to ask yourself that? This is exactly what surrounds the discourse of water use along the US-Mexico border and the way these questions are being addressed may surprise you. Water use in the U.S-Mexico border region has long been a tense topic, driven by stress placed on water supplies in an arid environment by agriculture and industry. The movement of water through the borderlands, as an economic resource and as an essential human good, has impacted many aspects of border life. The way water is handled in free trade agreements like the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) has caused tensions to rise. In Mexico, the privatization of water pushed by these trade agreements has created friction with the concept of water as a human right and water as a commodity. Water acts as a medium to observe the movement of resources through borders; such movement over border lines then transforms this natural fixture into a tradeable resource. The encounters with the rivers of the border region bring attention to how these movements are not as free as an idealized vision might have it, especially the visions of those who argue for a globalized world. Like human beings, water is traced from its source to the multitude of spaces it is destined to go and flagged for adequate use. With climate change looming, water issues and broader environmental impacts on transborder activity will become stark; some may argue they already have. (read more...)