Agustín Castillo
General Manager
CasAgua
/
Expert Contributor

Transparency and Innovation in the Water Sector

By Agustín Castillo | Wed, 06/15/2022 - 16:00

According to statistics from the National Water Commission of Mexico (CONAGUA), 76 percent of water in Mexico is used in agriculture, 14 percent in public supply, 5 percent in thermoelectric plants and 5 percent in industry. Another important fact is that according to CONAGUA, 57 percent of the total water used in agriculture is wasted, mainly due to inefficient irrigation infrastructure or poor infrastructure. On the other hand, industries are the most polluting, according to data from CNA, generating pollution equivalent to 100 million inhabitants (Maguey, 2018).

Analyzing this type of information is very important, since action can then be taken to address these problems. With complete information, better decisions can be made, resulting in more strategic solutions. However, a great effort is needed to make the information transparent regarding our water resources. In this article, I will talk about the transparency of information in water and innovations that can be implemented within industries to make information more accessible, leading to appropriate solutions that make our water more efficient. 

Transparency, accountability and access to information are extremely important in democracies and contribute to the development of society. It is also a very important aspect of water governance. According to the Water Integrity Network, transparency in water management refers to the publication of quality, accessible (easy and free), understandable, usable, relevant, consistent, reliable and timely data information. Thus, lack of transparency affects water exploitation and distribution, as well as waste control. In addition, it can lead to acts of corruption.

In Mexico, it cannot be said that the information provided by the actors involved in water management is completely transparent. According to the National Index of Natural Resources, which measures transparency in fisheries, forestry and water resources, the water sector obtained an overall score of 0.6 out of 1 in the index. There has been improvement with respect to the 2020 transparency index; however, within the recommendations it is mentioned that the information should be improved. Specifically, it is recommended that Mexico improve the information provided on water concessions in the country.

Greater transparency of information provides greater certainty and control over water resources. In this way, industry, government and civil society can have the correct information on our water and control this important resource. Also, gathering more information at different moments of water management would help us to measure and improve the efficiency of several processes in the water supply chain.

Innovation, Technologies for Industries in Mexico

A study published by the Mexican Institute of Water Technology (IMTA) and published in the Journal of Water Science Technology analyzed eight industries that have water concessions in Mexico: steel, food, sugar, beverages, mining, paper, chemicals and textiles. The study found that the mining industry is the least efficient, since "to generate one unit of production, in monetary terms, understood as any intermediate or final good or service of the production process, approximately 22,266m3 of water is needed." (Guerrero-García-Rojas et. al, 2021). On the other hand, the industry that uses water resources most efficiently in terms of production is the beverage sector. Finally, the study showed that there were difficulties in finding data regarding water concessions in Mexico because the data was incomplete, did not present the total number of concessions or the monitoring was inconsistent, causing inconsistencies in the information.

Different technologies could be implemented so that, on the one hand, the information regarding our water resources is properly monitored and published and, on the other hand, water is used efficiently in the different industries mentioned above. I would like to mention two technological innovations that could be used to meet the transparency objective. First, real-time and smart metering is an extremely important technology regarding water management. By analyzing data in real time, trends in the network or in water supplies for industries can then be identified and if there is an irregularity, for example a leak, the faults that exist could be alerted in real time and addressed appropriately.

Secondly, technological platforms that use artificial intelligence could be incorporated, according to Luengo (2021). These allow the analysis of information from drinking water supply systems to detect, count and locate volumes of water that are unaccounted for. This would provide many benefits and is something that we should keep in mind for proper management, since in this way, statistical data could be analyzed and alerts could be issued in real time. In addition, it helps the transparency of water information as it provides information to society, government and industries to better control our water resources.

One initiative that is betting on this type of technology is casAgua (www.casagua.mx), an investment fund for information technologies in water, energy and sustainability. It seeks to develop these types of innovations and more to make our water resources more efficient. Identifying the problem through the provision of accurate information is a good starting point for solving water issues, as this could lead to better tools to take action.

References

Comisión Nacional del Agua (CONAGUA), 2018, “Estadísticas del agua en México 2018”, disponible en: https://sina.conagua.gob.mx/publicaciones/EAM_2018.pdf Access: 23/05/2022

Ethos Laboratorio de Políticas Públicas, 2019, “Corruption in the water sector: Who is responsible for the crisis?” Disponible en: https://www.ethos.org.mx/ethos-publications/corrupcion-en-el-sector-agua-quien-es-responsable-de-la-crisis Access: 23/05/2022

Guerrero-García-Rojas et.al. (2021), “Productividad industrial del agua en México: Análisis de eficiencia para ocho sectores” Revista de Ciencia y Tecnología del Agua, disponible en: http://www.revistatyca.org.mx/index.php/tyca/article/view/2387/2276, Access: 23/05/2022

Luengo Shreck, Tamara, 2021, “LA TECNOLOGÍA COMO HERRAMIENTA PARA COMBATIR LA CORRUPCIÓN EN EL SECTOR HÍDRICO”, Impluvium, Publicación digital de la Red del Agua UNAM Número 16, Julio - Septiembre 2021, Disponible en: http://www.agua.unam.mx/assets/pdfs/impluvium/numero16.pdf, Access: 23/05/2022

Índice de Transparencia de los Recursos Hídricos (ITRN), 2021, “Informe de resultados Índice de Transparencia de los Recursos Naturales AGUA” disponible en: https://www.transparenciarecursosnaturales.org/multimedia Last Access: 23/05/2022)

Maguey, Hugo (2022) “Más de 80% del agua se va en uso agrícola y de la industria”, Gaceta UNAM, disponible en: https://www.gaceta.unam.mx/crisis-agua-industria/#:~:text=La%20industria%20de%20producci%C3%B3n%20y,por%20100%20millones%20de%20habitantes

Photo by:   Agustín Castillo

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