Wednesday, June 19, 2024

"Mexico City’s ‘Day Zero’ on Water Isn’t About to Happen"

From Bloomberg, June 6:

But that doesn’t mean the country’s water problem isn’t getting dangerously worse. To solve it, incoming president Claudia Sheinbaum will need to give the system a massive overhaul.

First, the good news: Mexico City won’t run out of all water in a few weeks as some media reports have alarmingly suggested.

The much-touted arrival on June 26 of the so-called “Day Zero,” the point when the city can’t supply any more water to its citizens and companies, is in fact a theoretical exercise mentioned by the press for months but unlikely to happen in the short term.

Now for the bad news: Due to a combination of persistent drought, higher temperatures and antiquated infrastructure, the perennial water scarcity problems of Mexico’s capital are becoming dangerously worse. While deficient water systems aren’t a novelty for the city, one of the world’s largest metropolises, its emerging climate conditions are pushing authorities toward emergency measures such as rationing and distributing water by truck to fill up tanks across different neighborhoods.

In fact, most of Mexico’s territory suffers from water stress: More than 70% of the country is experiencing some degree of drought, and the main dams are filled to just 36% of capacity compared with 50% in February.

But let’s focus on Mexico City for a moment: The Cutzamala system, a set of reservoirs, dams, pipes and water treatment plants accounting for about a quarter of the city’s supply, has been the main victim of a damaging dry spell. According to official figures, the system’s reservoirs have shrunk to a record low of about 214 million cubic meters, or 27% of capacity. That compares with reservoirs 41% full at the beginning of 2024 and 36% filled at this time of the year in 2023. In addition, only 118.3 millimeters of rain have fallen over the system between January and early June, compared with 310.1 millimeters last year. And May was the hottest month in the city’s history.

Yet experts are confident that the worst-case scenario can still be avoided. I spoke to Mexico’s National Water Commission (Conagua) and to two independent analysts, and they concur that “Day Zero” will be postponed because: 1) Authorities, both at the national and local level, are taking emergency measures including digging new water wells and restricting demand; 2) June is traditionally a rainy month, which should help to replenish the Cutzamala; 3) even if Cutzamala goes off, the city still receives about 75% of its water from other sources....