News Article

Water and Waste Management: Opportunity Rather Than Challenge

Thu, 05/19/2016 - 15:45

Salomón Abedrop, General Subdirector of Planning at CONAGUA, greeted the audience on behalf of his institution. He described Mexico’s geographical conditions, pointing out that it is the 14th largest country in the world. “Being a diverse country, Mexico experiences rain levels below 500mm per year in the north, while the southwest can get 2,000mm of rain annually.” The hydrological diversity has created different relationships between populations and water resources. Abedrop pointed out that the country’s hydrological pressure levels are inverted. Therefore, water is not a condition for economic development, even though it is a crucial component in social development. “One third of the national territory is home to 75% of the population, which generates 75% of the GDP, in regions that hold one quarter of the country’s water resources. Conversely, a quarter of the territory contains three quarters of the water resources, and houses the 25% of the population, who generates 25% of the GDP.” Given the fact that 78% of Mexico’s population lives in urban settings, placing great stress on water resources, managing this is indispensable for the development of sustainable cities.

Abedrop said the authorities are facing two challenges regarding water management: climate change and accelerated population growth. The former leads to intense meteorological phenomena, such as floods and droughts. Population growth increases the demand for water, generates pollution, overexploitation, and competition over the resource. Migration from rural to urban areas can also be added to the equation. Therefore, the Executive Power instructed CONAGUA to base the country’s water management on certain factors, including adequate and accessible water services, water use for food security (70% of the country’s water is used for agriculture), responsible water use given the resource’s impact on economic development, and hydro security.

Regarding drinking water, Abedrop said it is important to look for alternatives that guarantee supply, such as new technologies and desalination systems. In addition, the authorities have to prepare to bring water from increasingly remote locations, entailing heavy investments for large infrastructure projects. “Over the past years, 2,500 hydraulic projects have been developed in the country, and 2,100 sewage works have been built during this administration. However, these developments are becoming increasingly elaborate and deep. The tunnels now require not just hydraulic studies, but also geologic ones,” he explained. New projects should consider reusing water, as well as having a financial scheme for maintenance and other expenses.

The CONAGUA representative said the Agua Prieta water treatment plant in Jalisco processes 6.5 m3/s, and it produces 100% of the energy it uses to operate from biogas that is generated in the process. The treated water, he clarified, is used at a nearby power-generation facility, allowing the recovery of the polluted Santiago River. Abedrop also mentioned the Atotonilco water plant, which will be the largest in Latin America. “It will process 35 m3/s, treating 60% of the residual water coming from the Valley of Mexico, and it will generate 80% of the energy it will need to function.” He stressed the importance of managing treated water in order to foster the population’s health. “This resource is a key component that will allow us to continue pursuing economic development, thus its administration is crucial. However, water management falls under the responsibility of all three government levels and citizens, not just a few entities,” he concluded.