Gabino Martínez cleans the “Tláloc”, the tank that filters dust from the rainwater collection system in his home in the Tehuixtitla district of the Xochimilco district in southern Mexico City. During the rainy season from May to November, local residents collect the water that they use for washing, bathing, and cooking as they do not have access to tap water. CREDIT: Emilio Godoy / IPSMEXICO CITY, April 05 (IPS) – In neighborhoods like Tehuixtitla in southern Mexico, rain brings joy because it provides water for showering, washing dishes and clothes, and cooking using rainwater harvesting systems (RHS).
“When it starts raining, we feel so happy. We clean and sweep so that there is no dust on the roof and gutters and the water doesn’t get dirty or clogged,” said Gabino Martínez, a resident of Tehuixtitla. Part of the tourist community of Xochimilco, one of the 16 boroughs of Mexico City.
This is what the 63-year-old man told IPS, pointing to the roof of his house to show the infrastructure that makes it possible to collect rainwater to meet the family’s basic needs for part of the year.
Martínez, a married father of three who works as a craftsman, still has some water left from the rains last November and counts the first drops in the weeks until May, provided the climate crisis does not change the normal seasonal rainfall.
“We don’t waste water here. Everything we store, we use,” said Martínez, who installed his system for about $ 270 in 2008 and whose neighborhood was the first in Xochimilco to have RHS since the public water supply The system achieves this Area between hills not.
Before rainwater harvesting began, the residents of Tehuixtitla, who are now around 2,500 people across 11 streets, collected rainwater using makeshift systems and filtered it through cotton cloths. They also bought water from tank trucks known locally as pipas and then brought it to their homes in cans.
“Utilities” was just an abstract term in the dictionary. However, by organizing communities, they have received electricity, phone and internet services that are essential for working and studying during the COVID pandemic.
The RHS consists of a container, called “Tlaloc” because of its physical resemblance to the Aztec rain god, that filters dust from the water before flowing into a 5,000 liter tank that is distributed to the local utility grid. The collectors first let two or three downpours in so that the harvested water becomes cleaner.
Rain is salvation
Rainwater can help this Latin American country of 126 million people cope with the water crisis that Expert Project will launch in 2030, while it is currently causing floods and landslides, and generally ending up in the sewage system.
Rainwater harvesting reduces the need to obtain or import water from conventional sources, enables the creation of a supply at specific points and does not depend on the traditional system.
At the same time, it can help Mexico meet the goal of clean water and sanitation for the whole population, the sixth of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) set for 2030.
The situation in the greater Mexico City area, which is home to more than 21 million people, is particularly delicate as the metropolis is heading for so-called “day zero” when it no longer has enough water to meet its needs.
The city is the third largest of Mexico’s 33 administrative districts after the states of Baja California Sur, a dry area in the far northwest of the country, and Guanajuato, which is located in the north-central region and is burdened by agricultural activities.
Buying canisters of water that are transported by donkey is the alternative for residents of Tehuixtitla and other neighborhoods in the hills of the Xoxhimilco district in southern Mexico City when the rainwater collected during the rainy season is running out and the water supply is running out sufficient of tank trucks, known locally as “pipas”, is delayed. CREDIT: Emilio Godoy / IPSDrought is raging in Mexico this year, particularly the capital, whose main water source – the Lerma-Cutzamala Dam and the reservoir system in neighboring Mexico – is less than half its capacity.
As a result, the local government had to ration water in a city already under pressure from shortages.
According to the study “Captación de lluvia en la CDMX: Un análisis” from 2019 in Mexico City, the largest metropolis in Latin America, around 15,000 people in eight communities in the south and south-east of the city suffer from poor access to water and from marginalization de las desigualdades espaciales “(Mexico City Rainwater Basin: An Analysis of Spatial Inequalities), the latest edition published.
In addition, approximately 70 percent of the city’s residents have access to water for less than 12 hours a day.
In Mexico City, government programs have been in place since 2016 to supply water-scarce neighborhoods with RHS.
The Mexico City Rainwater Harvesting Systems program, which gave families around $ 900 in grants in 2020, has installed more than 20,000 devices in five communities on the outskirts of the city in the south and south-east since 2018.
By 2021 it will reach 529 districts in eight municipalities of the capital. However, the program only includes houses in urban areas. Households in Shantytowns outside of the city are considered to be in nature reserves, and the classification of these neighborhoods as Occupying Public Land means that they will be denied services.
The Constitution of Mexico City, which has been in force since 2017, provides that the city “guarantees universal water coverage and daily, continuous, fair and sustainable access” and creates incentives for rainwater use.
But on the hills of the southern parish of Tlalpan, for example, this constitutional article was not enforced. That’s why RHS systems were the salvation for residents like Silvia Ávila.
“The situation was very difficult, we had no water. It was a big problem. The authorities at the time sent a tanker truck once a month, but we had to walk about a kilometer and hose the water to our houses.” She told IPS during a visit to her home.
“There wasn’t enough water, even for our basic needs. There were people who didn’t even have a water tank to hold water. This was a desert because there was a lack of water and services,” she explained the transformation RHS did for Families in the neighborhood thought.
When she installed a 10,000 liter system in 2011 for which she paid around $ 230, a lot more changed than her access to water.
“When it rains, we can meet our basic needs,” said Ávila, a widowed housewife and mother of four. After arriving here, the program expanded to several nearby cities. ”
Water reservoirs are part of the landscape in the streets of Tehuixtitla. The residents of this neighborhood in southern Mexico City keep them next to their homes to supplement their water supplies by buying water from tank trucks which they store in canisters, some of which are faded by the sun and some of which are new, and then them pump into their homes. CREDIT: Emilio Godoy / IPSParaje Quiltepec resembles an ecovillage. The 30 families use biodigester, make vermicompost, recycle water, raise chickens and grow fruits and vegetables.
In the dry season, neighborhoods like Tehuixtitla and Paraje Quiltepec buy tanker loads of between 6,000 and 10,000 liters for $ 50 per household. In the former case, the local government also helps by distributing 800 liters per week.
Not only Mexico City suffers from a lack of water
The Mexican capital reflects the water problems in this vast country, covering an area of 1.96 million square kilometers, of which 67 percent is dry and semi-arid and 33 percent is humid.
In 2020, Mexico received more than 722 millimeters of rainfall per day, below the 779 average in recent years.
Although Mexico had low pressure in 2017 – 19.5 percent – the risk of water stress is high, according to the Aqueduct platform developed by the Aqueduct Alliance, which is made up of governments, companies and foundations.
In fact, it is the second largest water stress country in America after Chile. It may suffer from water stress from the center to the north in 2040.
Enrique Lomnitz, founder of the Isla Urbana civil association, a rainwater harvesting pioneer who installed the systems in Tehuixtitla and Paraje Quiltepec, noted the progress that has been made in introducing rainwater harvesting over the past decade.
“Market and advertising measures have been developed. The rainwater harvesting relieves part of the demand in an autonomous way and reduces the pressure on the government to provide the service,” the proponent of the initiative told IPS.
“Sometimes there is plenty of water in this country, but it is seasonal. So harvesting rain is becoming increasingly important because we cannot afford to waste what falls from the sky,” he said.
Lomnitz found that downpours increase the availability of water and are the only source of water in several areas of the capital.
As of 2009, Isla Urbana, winner of several international awards, has installed around 21,000 RHS nationwide.
The National Program for Rainwater Harvesting and Ecotechnology in Rural Areas (Procaptar) was launched in 2016 and benefited 4,500 people in 114 communities between 2018 and 2020. In 2021 it will help 11,500 residents in 63 municipalities.
The 2019 report estimates that installing 105,000 RHS would improve conditions for about 41,500 people.
The 2019 “Internal Evaluation of Rainwater Harvesting Systems in Mexico City House Programs” concluded that the program had met its physical goals in installing systems and reported good acceptance and satisfaction from beneficiaries.
In addition, it was recommended to improve the implementation of the system, especially with regard to maintenance, performance indicators and gender perspective. The 2020 review has not yet been published.
In Tehuixtitla, people don’t wait. The residents are planning a pumping system with the state National Water Commission to supply them with drinking water. The cost is about $ 1,750 per household.
“It will improve living conditions here,” said Martinez enthusiastically.
Lomnica proposed to incentivize rainwater harvesting, review subsidies for services, and encourage wastewater treatment and reuse.
“The situation is very serious in the city, so water supply measures are needed,” he said. “There are a number of possible solutions, such as recycling water or using water-saving devices. Rainwater harvesting is one of several.” Items to be worked on in order to manage the crisis. But it alone won’t solve the problem. ”
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