Water has become the north Mexican black market's latest hot property after a cartel took control of the nation's supply during a major drought.

Last year the Sinaloa Cartel, an international criminal organisation formerly run by infamous crook El Chapo, targeted lakes, rivers and creeks in the mountains of the state of Chihuahua, using water trucks and hundreds of miles of plastic pipeline to funnel the liquid away from its sources.

A mid-level cartel commander for the region, "El Señor", told Vice World News: "Here, everything has an owner – Rivers, creeks, lakes… everything, and especially water."

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He added: "Water is now a valuable asset for us, and as it becomes more scarce, the more we will fight to make sure we have enough."

The cartel made the decision to take over the water supply for two reasons, both financial – firstly to keep its weed and poppy fields well-watered, and secondly, so it could be the broker that supplies water to farmers, hotels, and other local businesses that have been left without water.

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The news comes after Mexico recorded one of its worst droughts in history last year, with taps running dry across the nation.

Last summer, the Chihuahua state declared that all of its crops were "completely lost" for the first time thanks to the effects of climate change in the region, pushing more than 22000 local farmers into extreme poverty.

During the drought’s peak many of these farmers were forced to leave their crops to work in fruit factories for a daily wage of less than $2, according to locals.

Local Indigenous farmer Alberto Ramírez said: We are not used to this, to working in factories for money. We harvest what we eat or exchange with other farmers, and we only sell what we are not going to eat that year."

However, despite the hijacked water system, the cartel may have lost some of their power after the Central American nation finally experienced some significant rainfall this month.

Local agronomist Ramón Campoy explained: "This is the first heavy rain we've gotten in more than 8 or 10 years.

"All this corn is fully grown, and it will last to give something to eat to these people for the rest of the year."

However, he warned that the relief was likely to be temporary and Mexico's problems were far from over.

"When winter is over, we will be at risk again," he said.

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