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Tesla’s Mexico factory could put a squeeze on local water supply

By CM Chaney · September 30, 2023

In brief…

  • Tesla plans a major new factory near Monterrey, Mexico, aiming to build one million EVs annually.
  • The factory has faced backlash over its potential impact on the local water supply.
  • Tesla promises sustainability efforts, but critics fear it could exacerbate the drought-plagued region's water problems.
  • Supporters argue the factory's economic benefits outweigh unsubstantiated concerns over water.
Tesla's plans for a huge new factory near Monterrey, Mexico have triggered a fierce debate over economic gains vs. the environment.  Maurizio Pesce from Milan, Italia/Wikimedia

Tesla’s plan to build a major factory in northern Mexico has sparked controversy over potential impacts on the struggling region’s limited water supply.

The proposed plant near Monterrey would be Tesla’s biggest yet, producing up to one million electric vehicles a year. Supporters tout the factory’s economic benefits. Activists and some residents, however, fear the factory will be a drain on the drought-plagued region’s water system.

Last year, Monterrey experienced an extreme drought that led to extreme water rationing.

“Fights broke out between people for a bucket of water,” resident Blanca Guzmán told Rest of World.

Meanwhile, breweries and other big businesses kept operating, fueling protesters claiming “drought plunder.” Tesla’s hefty water needs raise new concerns. While the company will use treated wastewater, many believe the area’s supply of drinking water will still get squeezed.

“We are going to see competition for residual water,” said environmental researcher Ismael Aguilar to Rest of World.

Beyond Tesla, other manufacturers attracted to the business-friendly region pose the threat of depleting local underground aquifers.

“Water is being extracted, and the level of the wells is also going down,” said Aguilar.

While Tesla promises strong sustainability efforts, advocates and some residents are demanding greater accountability.

“Mexico’s environmental laws are lax,” said environmentalist Rosario Álvarez.

Even so, supporters believe the factory will be an economic boon for the region.

“The benefits of the Tesla factory are 100 times greater,” said professor Alejandro Rojo.