Legal Rights for the Magdalena River

The Magdalena River ("el río Magdalena") is Mexico City’s last and only free-flowing river, with 44 paved over, piped or gone. The Magdalena faces threats from altered flow, severe pollution and hydraulic infrastructure -- including diversion channels and pipes.  In addition to harming the river itself, an impaired river ecosystem puts pressure on the Mexico City Aquifer and forests in the Valley of Mexico.

Earth Law Center, Cuatro al Cubo and other partners seek to establish fundamental rights for the Magdalena River. Doing so would establish the Magdalena as a legal entity with rights that are enforceable in a court of law, including a right to restoration. Mexico City is a prime location for this campaign since the “rights of nature” was included within the City’s new constitution, formally approved in 2017.

If successful, the Magdalena would be the first river in North America to achieve legal rights, joining rivers in India, New Zealand and Colombia whose rights are already recognized. This campaign also builds from ELC's work to establish a Universal Declaration of River Rights.

Más información aquí (en español). 

Magdalena River, Mexico City

Magdalena River, Mexico City



With growing interest in the campaign, ELC, Cuatro al Cubo, and partners now seek rights for three rivers in Mexico. In addition to the Magdalena, the other two rivers are the Atoyac (Puebla) and San Pedro Mezquital.

Read our handout to learn more, available in English and Spanish.



ELC is proud to work with local groups such as Cuatro Al Cubo, Organi - K, Nuiwari, A.C. and a myriad of others. Here are some of the supporters of the rights of rivers in Mexico:

Cuatro al Cubo - Member organizations.png


Join us! 

Interested in becoming a partner of the initiative to establish legal rights for rivers in Mexico? Email our Directing Attorney, Grant Wilson, at

Banner Photo by Luc Forsyth