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Mexico City has long suffered from water shortages. The crisis is getting worse.

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A combination of climate change, urban sprawl and poor infrastructure has pushed Mexico City to the brink of a severe water crisis.

Groundwater is disappearing rapidly. A key reservoir is so low that it can no longer be used to supply water. Last year was Mexico’s hottest and driest year in at least 70 years. One of the city’s main water systems faces a potential “Day Zero” this summer, when water levels drop so much that water will no longer be available.

“We are suffering because the city is growing at an immeasurable rate and there is no way to stop it,” said Gabriel Martínez, 64, whose apartment complex is struggling to accommodate its roughly 600 residents Get enough water. “There are not enough resources.”

Mexico City was once a water-rich valley Drain Make way for a big city, with a metropolitan population 23 millionbetween top 10 The population has grown from 15 million in 1990 to the largest in the world.It is one of several major cities facing severe water shortages, including cape town; sao pauloBrazil; and chennai, India. Many of these are caused by years of poor water management coupled with scant rainfall.

While Mexico City’s problems are worsening, it’s nothing new. Some communities have lacked adequate running water for years, but today communities that have never experienced shortages are suddenly facing these problems.

Experts warned of dwindling water supplies nearly two decades ago, with little success.If the water supply network in the capital has been connected connected by a thread Now “parts of the system are breaking down,” said Manuel Perló Cohen, an urban planning researcher who studies Mexico City’s water system.

“Mexico is the largest bottled water market in the world,” said Roberto Constantino Toto, director of the company’s water research office. Metropolitan Autonomous University of Mexico City. He added that this reflected “the failure of our water policy”.

unusually dry conditions It is the direct source of urban water resources dilemma.Mexico has long susceptible to droughtbut almost 68% of the country’s regions According to the Bureau of Meteorology, there is currently a moderate or extreme drought national water conservancy commission.

The Cutzamala water system, one of the world’s largest networks of dams, canals and pipelines that supplies 27% of the capital’s water, is currently operating at just 30% of normal capacity, an all-time low. official data exhibit.at the same point last yearthis proportion is 38%, and 2022this proportion is 45%.

Officials expect June 26 to be “day zero,” when water levels in the Cutzamala system could drop to the 20 percent baseline and water will no longer be supplied to Mexico City.

water level of a reservoir fell so low that officials stopped Used in April.

“It’s so sad,” said Juan Carlos Morán Costilla, a 52-year-old fisherman who lives along the reservoir, standing on the once-underwater, thermally cracked ground.

Groundwater, which supplies much of the city’s water, is being extracted twice as fast as it is replenished, experts say explain.

The city’s water supply, some of it brought in from far away, flows along an ancient pipe. 8,000 mile long grid It is vulnerable to earthquakes and ground subsidence, and leaks account for an estimated 35% of water losses – more than the Cutzamala system provides.

The city’s water challenges have become an issue in next month’s election.

President Andres Manuel López Obrador, aide says ‘zero day’ will not happeninsists his government is already solving Mexico City’s water problems. He said new wells were being dug and officials were working to stamp out corruption involving water used by big industries. He also proposed bringing in more water from outside the city.

Claudia Sheinbaum, a protégé of Mr López Obrador who resigned as mayor of Mexico City last year, became major presidential candidatesdefending her government’s handling of the water crisis.

She recently said scientists could not have predicted this prolonged drought and that if elected president, she would propose an ambitious plan to address the problems.

The National Water Commission did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

Some areas of Mexico City have long been without adequate running water, including Iztapalapa, a working-class neighborhood and the capital’s most populous borough, with 1.8 million people. Residents rely on municipal water trucks to fill water tanks or tanks in their homes or buildings. If that’s not enough, people spend their money on private trucks or, in extreme cases, illegal water pipes.

But as water becomes increasingly scarce, other parts of the city face increased rationing issues, including reduced flows and access to water only at certain times of the day or on certain days of the week.Water has been distributed to 284 communities This yeareven for the wealthier, compared with 147 2007.

“Life is changing,” said Adriana Gutiérrez, 50, who manages and lives in a 154-unit apartment complex in Iztapalapa that relies on water. Boroughs that haven’t had water problems have to really learn how to deal with them.” Trucks. Residents cherish every drop of water and use water from showers to clean their homes.

In 20 years, Dan Ortega Hernández, 50, has never had a problem with the running water at his barbershop in Mexico City’s Tralpan district. But in November, he said he turned on the tap and nothing came out. Now, when he gets tap water under the rationing scheme, he fills a 1,100-litre tank and hopes it will last until the next scheduled tap day.

This was served more frequently than at his home elsewhere in Tralpan. Municipal water trucks used to come every four days or so, but now it takes longer, sometimes up to a month, he said. Instead of using water at home, he washed his family’s clothes at a laundromat near the store.

“The scary thing is that our resources are running out,” he said.

There is no evidence that Mexico’s drought is caused by climate change. But rising temperatures will make the effects worse.

Mexico City average temperature rise Over the last century, temperatures have increased by about 3 degrees Celsius (4.5 degrees Fahrenheit), more than twice the global average.Reports of unusually hot weather (above 30 degrees Celsius or 86 degrees Fahrenheit) have doubled in parts of the city A 2020 study. This may be partly due to climate change and partly due to rapid urban development, where concrete and asphalt replace trees and wetlands.

High temperatures exacerbate the water crisis: people need more water, and more water evaporates.

Newest Water Risk AtlasThe Water Stress Report from the World Resources Institute describes Mexico City as facing “extremely high” water stress, the highest level of stress.

As Mexico prepares to vote for a new president, water issues have been largely overshadowed by other topics such as crime and the economy. However, water has been a major focus of the mayoral campaign.

One candidate said water would reach the entire city, no matter where people live. Another declared that loopholes that the ruling party failed to fix will be fixed. A master plan will be developed, complemented by a third plan to excavate buried rivers running through the capital.

“Everyone now says, ‘Yeah, I’m going to fix the water problem,'” Dr. Pellow said. “But I’ve heard this story many times before.”

Some progress has been made. A giant $2 billion tunnel opened in 2019 to carry Mexico City’s wastewater to a distant water treatment plant. A program to harvest unused rainwater has been launched in some poorer communities. A small portion of Lake Texcoco was restored and most of it was drained to build the city. More wells and aquifers are being explored.

But several experts say steps taken so far are not aggressive enough and others are in the wrong direction.

The main focus of municipal and national governments has been to find distant watersheds to provide water to other Mexican states to meet the needs of Mexico City. But most of the city’s treatment plants are not operating at full capacity.many Leave wastewater untreatedIt then discharges into rivers or lakes, contaminating possible alternative water sources.

The cost of solving the water crisis is estimated to be as high as $13.5 billion Municipal Water Affairs Bureau.

The rainy season, which usually runs from around June to November, usually helps replenish Mexico City’s water supply. But last year’s monsoon saw record low rainfall in the capital.

The “zero-day” warnings by some experts have become a flash point in Mexico City, used to criticize the ruling party, including López Obrador and Sheinbaum. But it also helps cultivate public attention to a deepening problem.

“It creates feelings of fear, anxiety and worry,” said Fabiola Sousa Rodriguez, a water management and climate policy researcher.

Lizbeth Martínez García, 26, lives in a hillside community in Iztapalapa, where a municipal water truck delivers water to her building’s four residents every week. The home filled up with water, and she said she asked the delivery person about the future.

She said he told her the future meant less water.

“We’re scared,” she said.

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