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U.S.-owned brewery sucking up all water, mayor of Mexican town claims

A customer carries a six-pack of Corona beer, a Constellation Brand, through Chuck's Beverage store in Chagrin Falls, Ohio on Thursday, Oct. 5, 2006. Beer, liquor and wine producer Constellation Brands Inc. said its second-quarter profit fell 18 percent due to higher costs and restructuring charges, and it revised fiscal 2007 guidance to reflect intense competition in the British market. (AP Photo/Amy Sancetta)

A customer carries a six-pack of Corona beer, a Constellation Brand, through Chuck's Beverage store in Chagrin Falls, Ohio on Thursday, Oct. 5, 2006. Beer, liquor and wine producer Constellation Brands Inc. said its second-quarter profit fell 18 percent due to higher costs and restructuring charges, and it revised fiscal 2007 guidance to reflect intense competition in the British market. (AP Photo/Amy Sancetta)  ((AP Photo/Amy Sancetta))

A controversy is brewing in Mexico after a mayor in a small municipality sent out a complaint that a brewery owned by an American beer company is sucking up all of his town’s water and leaving residents high and dry.

In single-sentence letter to Coahuila state Governor Rubén Moreira, Mayor Leoncio Martínez Sánchez of the municipality of Zaragoza exclaimed: “We have no water for human consumption.”

In an interview with the Guardian, Martínez said that his municipality is in the midst of a water shortage so severe, “there’s barely a drop of water when you open the tap,” and that a nearby brewery run by Constellation Brands is at fault.

He also bemoaned that plans to increase production at the brewery, which makes Corona and Modelo beers among others, would only aggravate the problem – as would the government's plans to intensify fracking in the northern state.

“We’re worried because we’re already being impacted by this extraction of 1,200 liters of water per second,” he said of the brewery. “It’s contradictory that while Constellation Brands has industrial amounts of water to make beer, the municipality of Zaragoza doesn’t have 100 liters [per second] of water to give people to drink or use in their homes.”

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Martinez said that the deep wells which supply water to the brewery, which, after a $2.27 billion project to expand the facility is finished next year, is expected to produce 20 million bottles of beer a day.

“[The government] gave them this land and these wells on a silver platter,” he said.

Constellation Brands, however, has denied any wrongdoing and called Martínez's claims "erroneous." A spokesperson for the company said that a study commissioned in 2015 by Constellation found that the brewery uses less than one percent of the water from the aquifer it shares with the town. 

“Constellation Brands is committed to operating our facilities in a sustainable way in Coahuila (Mexico) and other markets around the world," Michael McGrew, the vice president for communications at the company, said in an e-mail to Fox News Latino. "Our facility in Nava has one of the best water efficiency rates in the industry, and our wastewater treatment system enables us to reuse about 26 percent of incoming water. Each of our 2,000 local employees is committed to continuing to do our part to ensure that Constellation remains a good steward of our environment.”

Late last month, Coahuila's governor also refuted Martínez's claims about the brewery.

Speaking to Mexican media, Moreira said that Zaragoza's water problems stem from an outdated network of pipes with a lot of leaks and not from the brewery's use of the local aquifer.

"I want to clarify that has no relation to the brewery, not at all," Moreira told Zócalo Saltillo

“They have a large number of leaks," he said about Zaragoza's water supply infrastructure. “That water system is like a colander – it isn't very efficient at all."

He added, "I've spoken to the mayor. We're going to help. We're going to make money and resources available to them."

Water crises are nothing new in the state of Coahulia, which borders Texas.

“Northern Mexico is extraordinarily dry, and it has extreme climatic conditions. It doesn’t have a lot of rain – therefore, there is a lot of water scarcity,” Raúl Pacheco-Vega, public administration professor at Mexico's Center for Research and Teaching in Economics, told the Guardian. “Even though Mexico has a constitutional mandate to have water for everyone, we’re still privatizing it. We’re still giving concessions to private entities on the premise of bringing jobs.”

In the past two decades, Mexico has become one of the world’s largest brewers of beer and the largest exporter to the United States.

Constellation Brands is the maker of four of the Top 10 most popular imported beer brands in the U.S., with Corona being No. 1. Modelo Especial (3), Corona Light (4) and Pacifico (9) are the company's other labels on the list.

Follow Andrew O'Reilly on Twitter @aoreilly84.

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