Creativity Needed to Quench Mexico’s ThirstWed, 11/15/2017 - 17:38
Over 95 percent of the population will live in cities in the near future and what is being done in cities is likely to define humanity, Iñaki Echeverria, Architect and Urbanist at Iñaki Echeverria, said on the second day of the Mexico Infrastructure & Sustainability Summit 2017 in Mexico City on Wednesday. “In this matter, water is an important element that assures quality of life,” he said. “We need to start thinking outside the box and develop creative solutions that are almost science fiction, in the same way as self- driving cars that eliminate the issue of people driving and texting.”
Generating solutions for water consumption is increasingly important as water is becoming a scarce resource, not only in Mexico but the rest of the world. During the panel, “Sustainable Water Management Solutions for Mexico,” Javier Arce, Director of Development at Hoteles City, proposed creating more consciousness among the population to reduce water consumption. “We can continuously invest in mechanisms and projects that help minimize the use of water but these advancements are useless if people are not conscious of the issue,” he said.
Arce believes that one hindrance to creating consciousness is the highly subsidized tariffs that cause people to undervalue water. “Neighborhoods for communities with lower resources tend to leave their lights on all day and use large amounts of water because they pay so little for these resources,” he said.
The threat of punishment could make a difference in people’s water habits, according to Judith Maas, Deputy Ambassador of the Kingdom of Netherlands to Mexico. “Punishing the waste of water is a good way to make people aware of their habits. A proper tax system has the ability to create wáter-sensitive cities and make sure people do not take the resource for granted.”
Mexico, said Maas, could learn from the experience of the Netherlands. “The problems that these two countries have in water management may differ but we created solutions that can be applied in Mexico,” she said. “In the Netherlands, people are willing to pay taxes to better manage water in the country and it is a democratic system where all citizens are involved in the decisión-making process. People even organize themselves to create roof gardens that soak up rainwater while insulating homes.” These actions push people to be more informed about their decisions from what food they eat to the hotels they choose to stay in, she said.
But measures such as fines for overconsumption are not enough, Iñaki reminded the panel. He said a better solution involves the creation of a new system of water distribution that is more efficient and the development of adequate infrastructure. “People are already starting to become more conscious and we need to create projects that set the example.”
Iñaki also highlighted the contribution of industrial consumption to water scarcity. “One of the biggest challenges that Mexico faces is not urban consumption of water but industrial consumption,” he said. “We could solve all the water issues in the city but this would not make the problem disappear as agriculture and industrial consumption play a larger role in the issue.”
Water management needs to be a priority in the country to secure future access to the resource and ensure the well-being of Mexican cities. “Water subsidies do not work in Mexico and we need to think of new possibilities for water management in the city,” said Ramon Aguirre, Director General of SACMEX, the city’s water operator.