State of the Planet

News from the Columbia Climate School

Mexico City to Treat Water Runoff

During last week’s World Water Forum, Conagua, Mexico’s National Water Commission, announced plans to build a purification plant to treat rain and water runoff. The US$1.3 billion project is expected to be completed in 2012 and is a build/operate contract.

Mexico’s per capita water availability declined to 4,312 cubic meters in 2007 from 18,035 cubic meters in 1950, with some regions, including parts of the Pacific coast in Baja California, reaching “alarmingly low” levels, Conagua said in a report last year on the state of water resources in Mexico. Mexico City itself is built over an aquifer and several areas of the city have sunk over two meters in the past ten years as the aquifer has been depleted.

Incentives for conservation and sustainability are often not in place, so it is refreshing to see these water reuse systems being built. Too often we see an emphasis on securing new sources of water and building massive redistribution systems while existing water sources such as rain and runoff are not captured.

Further Reading:

World Bank Paper on Mexico City’s Water Supply

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Cindy Hawkins-Legorreta
15 years ago

As a former Columbia GS student, I had the great good fortune to take an Earth Science class with Professor Roger Anderson, of Lamont Doherty. That class forever changed the way I perceive our planet, and my role as a citizen of same. If you chance to run into me nowadays in my neighborhood, Union Square you’re likely to see me “rescuing water”. I am astonished how many people buy those small plastic bottles of water, take a few sips, and then toss them. So, I take my shopping cart and bring these bottles home. On any given day I find at least two dozen. Add that up over time and it’s a substantial amount of water. I use it on my plants, in bird-feeders, and none, I repeat NONE of it goes to waste. We simply must be more mindful of the way we use – and waste water, in and around New York – and in the “civilized world” since so many countries are facing water crises of one kind or another.

Dan Stellar
15 years ago

I applaud any project that reduces reliance on groundwater, particularly in overly stressed areas such as Mexico City. But does rainwater capture really count as “reuse”? While capturing and using rainwater is (or can be) a step towards sustainability, I’m not sure it’s really in the same category as true reuse, which will be a necessary component in the mix of solutions needed to avert a water crisis.