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  • So Mexico City is a place

  • of paradoxes, of conundrums,

  • and of water that it's there but you don't see it.

  • There's parts of the cities where you would never know

  • just by looking at them that there's any

  • water crisis around.

  • They have clean water 24 hours a day,

  • apparently just as abundant as it would be

  • in New York or something like that.

  • Then you have other parts of the city

  • where people are living

  • in very, very, extremely precarious water situations.

  • Low-income parts of Mexico City

  • and the people that live around it

  • are now facing a situation where they open the tap

  • and no water comes out.

  • It's a very tragic story of having

  • all of the water in the world and somehow ending up

  • being a city that today is on the list

  • of top 10 cities most likely to run out of water.

  • You have to do something, and so we do.

  • Enrique Lomnitz' hometown, Mexico City,

  • is in a water crisis that gets worse by the day.

  • He started social enterprise Isla Urbana

  • to stem the tide.

  • They design and build cheap and simple systems

  • that catch and clean rainwater.

  • There's nothing new about rainwater harvesting.

  • People have been harvesting rainwater

  • since they first opened their mouths

  • and looked up at the sky at the same time.

  • It seemed to us like a logical thing.

  • Just figure out how we can use this water

  • that we have available to us

  • as kind of like a first part of a larger solution.

  • It's a situation that affects women very particularly.

  • Mostly it's women who tend to be more

  • kind of in charge of managing the household

  • and basically their lives start circling

  • around these water issues.

  • Elizabeth is one of 11 people

  • living in this house on the edge of Mexico City.

  • She's also one of 2.5 million people

  • who don't have access to permanent and safe drinking water.

  • But going thirsty isn't where Elizabeth

  • and her family's problems end.

  • The economic implications of not having water

  • are very interesting, and the people that rely

  • on water trucks, for example,

  • they often have to have somebody at home

  • all the time to wait for a possible water truck arrival

  • so there's often someone that can't work at all.

  • They just need to always be at home.

  • What's strange about Mexico City, though,

  • is it isn't some barren desert.

  • It's wet. Really wet.

  • Here we'll have one hour

  • where it's like apocalyptic.

  • The sky is just falling and there's lighting and thunder

  • and rivers in the streets.

  • During the rainy season you will have floods.

  • Those floods can last for days.

  • Mexico City gets considerably more rain

  • than a city like London does, for example.

  • The question that comes to one's mind

  • is if we have so much water resources,

  • why do we have to be in such a bad situation?

  • The water crisis in Mexico City is a 400-year-old story.

  • Mexico City started off being a city on an island

  • in the center of a lake in this basin

  • high up in the mountains.

  • And over the course of 400 years,

  • basically the city has focused on draining

  • all of these ancient lakes out of the aquifer

  • and building a giant modern city in its place.

  • So where you had this 2,000-square-kilometer lake

  • you now have just city as far as the eye can see.

  • You see a lot of highways and a lot of avenues

  • and streets who have the name of rivers.

  • Those streets were actually rivers 50, 60 years ago.

  • To provide for its vast population

  • around 1,800 wells pump water out of the ground,

  • depleting the aquifer below.

  • But because the city's prone to deadly flooding

  • it's built a massive infrastructure

  • to get the water out quickly when it rains.

  • The result: not enough water filters down

  • to recharge the aquifer.

  • The loss of that water that you can actually see

  • is paralleled with the drying up of all of the aquifers.

  • We're just pumping and pumping and pumping water

  • out of the ground to the degree that, actually,

  • Mexico City is physically sinking.

  • More than 10 meters in the last century.

  • Monuments need steps added for people to reach them,

  • streets rise and fall, sinkholes open up the earth,

  • and the water from the ground isn't enough

  • to quench the city's thirst.

  • 30% of its water is imported from outside the city.

  • But the infrastructure is so old and huge

  • not only is 40% of water lost through leaks,

  • but much of what does make it can become contaminated.

  • Many people end up spending a significant portion

  • of their income on expensive bottled water.

  • People don't trust the quality of the water

  • they get out of the grid even in areas

  • where it's actually quite good.

  • 98 or so percent of the population doesn't drink tap water.

  • They buy water from purifiers, from these filter stores

  • that will fill your five-gallon jugs.

  • We're industrial designers, and honestly,

  • we were looking for problems to solve.

  • People just started telling us about water.

  • They started telling us about how

  • their water situation was getting worse and worse.

  • Isla Urbana installed their first system

  • here in Ajusco on the southern edge of the city.

  • It didn't take long for people to realize the benefits.

  • Little by little almost all of the neighbors

  • have started harvesting rainwater themselves.

  • We're working with communities

  • so that they can become self-reliant

  • in getting their own water supply

  • and securing their own water.

  • It needs to be as simple as possible.

  • Rain falls on the roof, goes through the gutters,

  • goes through the pipe, diverts the first volume,

  • goes into a tank, gets chlorinated,

  • you let the little bits of dust settle

  • and then you pump that water out

  • and give it just some simple filtration.

  • That water you can just connect directly

  • into your house's existing plumbing system

  • so you open a tap in the kitchen

  • and that's the rainwater that's coming out.

  • For families in these areas that are very,

  • very water-stressed, starting to harvest rainwater

  • can mean sometimes doubling the amount of water

  • that you actually have available.

  • 95% or so of the water that's used in a household

  • is not for drinking, it's for everything else,

  • and so that's really where you wanna hit first

  • 'cause that's where you're gonna make

  • the biggest first difference.

  • So we want to have our baseline system

  • be as affordable as possible, but designed in such a way

  • that you can add new treatment systems to it

  • so that you can eventually stop

  • having to buy drinking water as well.

  • The water, it's water, except it's just water

  • that's reaching your house via falling on you from the sky

  • instead of coming from the city's water grid.

  • We get usually between 700 and 1,000 liters

  • of water per year for every square meter of roof.

  • So if you have a house that has, say,

  • a 100-square-meter roof, it's not a huge house at all,

  • a house like that can get up to

  • around 100,000 liters of water per year.

  • The problem at that point becomes

  • they just don't have enough tanks to store it all.

  • Mexico City should be able to get

  • at least 20 to 30% of its water demand

  • through rainwater harvesting systems,

  • which is very significant.

  • It's an incredible amount of water.

  • Guaranteeing water goes way beyond

  • quenching thirst and saving money.

  • It could also save a city from itself.

  • You have health, economic,

  • social, political problems.

  • If you divide the amount of water

  • that gets into the network every second,

  • every inhabitant of Mexico City

  • should get 350 liters per day.

  • If the entire eastern part of Mexico City

  • runs out of water there's gonna be

  • incredible amounts of social friction

  • and discontent and political crises.

  • We all live in this valley. We all need to be okay.

  • The local government has recognized

  • the perilous position the city finds itself in

  • and last year invested in 10,000 of Isla Urbana's systems.

  • They plan to install 100,000 by 2024.

  • Many believe regenerating areas of nature

  • holds the key to protecting cities

  • from problems like water sustainability.

  • We're not going to be able to return

  • to the Aztec city in the middle of the lake.

  • That's gone.

  • But we can have a new water model for the city.

  • A model where we keep water, we have rivers,

  • we have small lakes, and water can be a friend and an ally

  • and not a foe like it's today.

  • When it comes to running out of water,

  • Mexico City isn't alone.

  • L.A., Cape Town, Sao Paulo, the list is growing,

  • each with millions of inhabitants

  • facing devastating water crises.

  • They're serving as a warning

  • as more of the world's population migrates to urban centers.

  • Mexico City in 1940

  • had maybe a 1.5 million inhabitants

  • and today has close to 23 million people.

  • And this incredibly violent growth

  • and all this incredibly fast expansion of the city

  • has put unbelievable stress on all of the natural systems

  • that provide us with things like water.

  • Since 2009 Isla Urbana have installed

  • more than 20,000 of their harvesting systems,

  • mostly on top of low-income homes in Mexico City

  • and in rural communities.

  • Their devices catch a combined 800 million liters of water

  • each year, providing some 120,000 people

  • with a significant portion of their water needs.

  • I believe a lot in the

  • empowerment aspect of this.

  • How do we transition to being a society

  • where everybody is actively participating

  • in water management and is actually harvesting

  • their own water and taking care of it

  • and not relying on this other system?

So Mexico City is a place

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B1 US water mexico city mexico rainwater harvesting aquifer

A City Built on Water Is Running Out of It

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    joey joey posted on 2021/05/17
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