Mexico City's Outdated Water Infra in Need of ReplacementWed, 11/01/2017 - 10:01
Q: How did Inbode become a leader within Mexico’s water segment?
DP: We have more than 27 years of experience in Mexico’s water sector. We understand the different necessities of Mexico’s cities and municipalities and the issues they face. We are constantly innovating to help solve different problems. The company began commercializing Vacall, RST, Global and Thompson Pump brands. Over the past three years, we have been working closely with SACMEX due to an increase in problems with Mexico City’s water infrastructure. We want to continue innovating and taking the next steps to ensure the country’s future water supply.
Q: How can Inbode’s solution improve Mexico’s water infrastructure system more efficiently and quickly?
DP: Our solutions allow us to completely repair and replace Mexico’s ancient water pipes without having to dig them out of the ground. There are several pipes beneath major roads in the city, and completely changing a pipe creates mobility and safety problems for citizens. For instance, once the Line 7 of the Metrobús is installed on Reforma, it will be impossible to remove or replace any of the water or drainage infrastructure underneath. This is where we can help because we can rehabilitate water pipes without having to extract them from the ground.
Our products are inserted into the pipeline that covers the old pipe. Our solution is made from fiberglass and automatically repairs the entire pipe in a fraction of the time necessary with other methods. Apart from efficiency, the materials have no ill-effect on the public and can be guaranteed for more than 50 years.
We have had various projects in Mexico City. For instance, we were responsible for repairing the drainage pipes on Michoacan street, which crosses through Parque Mexico in Condesa. We were able to repair a 252m segment in just one weekend. The advantage was that people could continue using the park and footpaths during the entire repair. We first diverted the dirty water into a tank and then dug a hole from which we could fix the entire section of the pipe. We have specialized in large diameter pipes and in potable water services. We are the only company in the country that has this technology.
Q: What is the status of Mexico City’s infrastructure and why is it taking so long to improve it?
DP: The biggest problem the country will face in the coming years is that its water infrastructure is extremely old. Roma and Condesa have some of the oldest water infrastructure in the city. For years we have been repairing the pipes but it has now gotten to the point where they need to be completely replaced. The country’s ancient system has many leaks and was constructed using asbestos cement, which is now prohibited due to related carcinogenic problems. We have even repaired pipes that are more than 110 years old and made of brick.
With so many budget cuts and increases in expenditures, local water systems cannot afford the costs of repairing and improving existing infrastructure. The government has been trying to get loans from international development banks to finance these fixes but nothing is concrete yet.
FP: Mexico repairs approximately 1km of pipelines each year while the US repairs more than 200km of pipelines. Mexico City for example has more than 12,000km of sewage pipes and 12,000km of potable water pipes, which are divided into primary and secondary networks. Less than 5 percent of these systems has been changed since they were first installed. But because nobody can actually see the infrastructure, nobody notices how much water is actually lost through leaks. Mexico’s water system loses more than 40 percent of the water it transports and this is only accounting for registered water.
Q: Why should the private sector be more involved in improving the country’s water infrastructure?
DP: It is probable that many municipal water systems will be managed by private-sector players in the future. This is why we have created a partnership with Suez whereby we service its concessions and solve its water infrastructure problems. We are working together in San Luis Potosi and Ciudad Juarez.
A huge problem with Mexico’s water system is that there are many needs that must be fulfilled, but no money to do it. When the private sector is responsible for managing and ensuring the performance of a water system, it will invest the money necessary to secure a return. Most public-sector leaders who are responsible for the water infrastructure systems prioritize their decisions based on what they can see, and not necessarily on what is most urgent. The private sector is more likely to take into account not only financial costs, but also social and environmental costs that could be generated during a project. It is much easier for us as a service provider to convince a private company of the added value of our solutions rather than the public sector.
Q: What challenges have you faced in convincing the public sector of the value of your products?
FP: Sensitizing the public and private sector to the added value our solutions offer has been the biggest obstacle we have encountered. Because our pipeline substitution products do not require excavation it can be unsettling to some decisionmakers. The public sector wants to carry out projects that are visible, so that the public can see investments are being made to improve infrastructure. Although our products may be more expensive at first, closing down a street, digging and completely replacing the pipe is far more expensive.
Reaching out to the public sector has been a difficult task. It has the power to make these products and methods mandatory for concessionaires. Most of the concessionaires at the moment are focusing only on potable water systems and not sewage but both systems should be made a priority. Potable water is always given preference and nobody is quite sure why.
DP: The lack of financial resources is also the reason why the sector has adopted technology and innovation so slowly. To use our H20 Saertex Liner, which is manufactured in Germany, CONAGUA asked us to obtain a certification from IMTA so that it can be used for potable water. CONAGUA should be the one setting the rules for the products and materials that need to be used in the water systems. It is the only entity that can influence change.