Mexico City – Water Shortage
One of the world’s largest cities, Mexico City is home to about 21 million people – rising to 27 million if you include the surrounding areas. About 20% of Mexico’s population lives there. By the year 2030, the authorities estimate that the population will grow to 30 million people.
Among other challenges, such a large population puts a costly strain on Mexico City’s water supplies. In fact, the parts of Mexico City’s infrastructure that supply water are crumbling. Its natural water reserves are also at risk; if trends continue, they are expected to dry out as soon as in 30 years. With so many people affected, this means one of the world’s largest water crises is in the making on the doorstep of the US.
Located more than 2,000m above sea level, the city is subject to heavy rainfall. The wet season between June and September, in particular, brings frequent flash floods.
Burst pipes aren’t the only reason that Mexico City’s sewage overflows. Rubbish disposed of on the streets often clogs pipe drains, backing up the system. That can have serious consequences quickly, since Mexico City produces about 40,000 litres of sewage every second.
Despite flooding events and heavy rainfall, the city is facing a water shortage. Much of this is because of the inefficient and ageing infrastructure of Mexico City’s water networks: some 40% of the water is lost.
As a result, many of the city’s inhabitants have an interrupted water supply, perhaps only being able to turn on the tap and get water twice a week.
Given Mexico City’s original geography, its lack of water may seem strange. The city was built on an island surrounded by a large natural lake basin. But when the Spanish colonised Mexico in the 1500s, they dried out the lake to build a bigger city.
This means that deep underground, Mexico City has fresh water reservoirs – which the city still depends on for about 40% of its water. But the shortage of water in the city means these natural water reserves are being emptied at a rate faster than they can be filled, especially during months of prolonged drought in the dry season. Projections show that the aquifers could be depleted in 30 to 50 years, if current exploitation trends continue.