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As Cape Town Runs Out of Water, Here's a Look at Parts of Mexico City That Have Been Without Water For a Year (buzzfeed.com) 93

In some places, taps have been dry for over a year. People bathe their children with bottled water. A group of women has taken over water distribution from the city authorities. The future feared by millions of people across the world has already arrived in Mexico City , BuzzFeed News reports. From the report: In certain areas, people say taps go dry for months. Angry civilians have blocked off highways and squared off with riot police, wresting control of water distribution from the government. "Crime affects us deeply but if you don't have water, you can't do anything," said Marisol Fierro, part of a group of women in charge of delivering water to neighbors. Across the ocean, authorities in South Africa talk about Day Zero, when Cape Town is set to run out of water and the city is forced to shut off its taps. It has made headlines around the world, as people watch on with bated breath. But here in Iztapalapa, a sprawling, drab Mexico City borough where nearly 2 million people live, that day has already arrived, offering a window into what the future may hold for millions of people when the taps run dry. Police officers are sometimes forced to guard water trucks, popular targets for kidnappers who sell their contents for hefty prices. In other cities, politicians might promise expanded broadband, better health care, or higher wages to win votes, but in Mexico City, mayoral hopefuls have made simple access to water central to their campaigns. Reserved and quiet, Emma Pantaleon seems an unlikely protagonist at the front lines of this daily battle. Pantaleon joins Fierro and other women -- housewives who juggle child-rearing, house chores, and part-time jobs -- gathering water requests from their neighbors, coordinating trucks' routes with local authorities, and riding along to ensure the operation runs smoothly.

On a recent morning, she sat in the passenger seat of a water tanker as it revved its motor up a hill, dwarfing the dilapidated single-room houses along its path. When the driver swerved left and stepped on the brake, Pantaleon leaped out. It was a scene straight out of Mad Max: Fury Road. Pantaleon, 41, walked over to the nearest cinder block house and called out to its owner. As soon as Catalina Cortez opened the door, the driver and a helper marched in, pulling the truck's hose straight up to a plastic water storage tank taking up a third of the patio.

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As Cape Town Runs Out of Water, Here's a Look at Parts of Mexico City That Have Been Without Water For a Year

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  • by K. S. Kyosuke ( 729550 ) on Sunday February 25, 2018 @03:38PM (#56184837)
    Something doesn't add up here:

    On average, each person in Mexico City uses up 320 liters of water per day; in Iztapalapa, that number goes down to 235. Macedo, who says she watches the news all day and has several family members in the US, including some DREAMers, is acutely aware of the injustice.

    My country uses uses about 90 liters of water per citizen per day. So basically, in the place in question, they're using 2.6 times as much water as we do. And we happen to pay around $4 USD per cubic meter (despite having no shortage of it and being upstream from all our neigbours), yet they (in a subtropical region) insist on "[delivering] water ... free of charge". I think I may see a problem here...

    • by PPH ( 736903 ) on Sunday February 25, 2018 @04:37PM (#56184877)

      in Iztapalapa, that number goes down to 235

      And it's being delivered by trucks. So it means that they have the water (somewhere). It's just their distribution system that has broken down. I'm guessing that the truck solution is less economical than decent pipes. They just can't float the necessary financing in one chunk without the funds disappearing into various pockets.

      Time to send in the army, line up a few crooked politicians against a wall who are diverting maintenance funds and shoot them. Or if the army won't do it, maybe Sinaloa will.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        There is no water shortage in Mexico. This water delivery by truck system happens all over Mexico. They charge for this service and has become a lucrative business. This is just pure corruption and greed to the absolute extreme, including the poor being greedy.

        • In Mexico, when the army comes in, they line the few honest politicians against the wall and then steal the trucks.

          And why wouldn't they? They have the guns.

          The system in places like Mexico makes perfect sense to me. Everyone looking after their own interests. What amazes me is that things work so well in the west. It is a deeply embedded cultural notion to "do the right thing". Very odd.

          • by gwolf ( 26339 )

            I'm sorry - your participation here sounds as nonsensical as could be expected from a 2nd-amendtist.

      • by gwolf ( 26339 ) <gwolf&gwolf,org> on Monday February 26, 2018 @02:41AM (#56186167) Homepage

        Mexico City inhabitant here.
        The water that is delivered to our city comes partly from underground deposits, but mostly from a river system ~400Km away. The problem with Iztapalapa and similar regions is that our city is sinking - We are actually built on top of a lake. Seismic movements, natural mud compaction, and related issues can lead to pipes getting crushed and water distribution being inefficient.
        Of course, a point to be considered is that Iztapalapa was never planned - Most of it was quite hastily populated, following a series of crisis we had in the 1980s (countryside impoverishment, a big earthquake displacing many people from the center of our city). It is the poorest borough in the city, and rather than planification, it has slowly seen consolidation. So, many parts of it plainly never had any water pipes, because they never had an authorization for building.
        Should be noted - Ours is not such a lost, third-world, depressed city as some points make it sound like. It is a very depressed region, in a relatively rich and lively (and _huge_) city.

        • by PPH ( 736903 )

          So it's an infrastructure problem, not a water shortage per se. It's just that the population growth got out ahead of the utility system.

    • Yep, a few years ago Melbourne's reservoirs were running low, so the water company created a 'Target 155' (litres per person per day) campaign. I'm at a bit of a loss as to how people could use that much in the first place.

    • by Xolotl ( 675282 )

      I think that also includes industrial usage as well as domestic usage, with the total averaged over the population. Mexico City has also long been a poster child for mismanagement and waste of water resources (something like 40% is lost to leaks, and they don't use rooftop collection systems (they actally have flooding when it rains heavily, because the water isn't collected) and so on ...).

      mexico city water crisis [theguardian.com]

      mexico water shortage [dw.com]

      • by gwolf ( 26339 )

        I guess you are also a local, based on your alias.

        Rooftop collection systems are basically of very little use, as we have a long (~6mo) rainy season, during which there is little point in storing water (try storing it for months, you won't want to drink it ever, besides, good luck finding where to put it!), and a long (~6mo, of course) dry season, that's when the poorer regions of the city face the worst droughts. Rooftop collection can be useful, but only for a handful of use cases.

      • I am not at all doubting that there is mismanagement, but I just want to comment on the 40% lost to leak because that sounds like a quite normal number for leakage. Here in Norway many places are worse than that, and upon searching for some reference while writing this answer I see than worst in class [www.tu.no] is actually as bad as 73%.
        • by Xolotl ( 675282 )

          75% is extremely high, these are some numbers [intechopen.com] for various EU countries:

          from this study [intechopen.com]. The data are a little old, but only two counties in that list haave over 40% and most have far less.

          is water metered in Norway?

          • by Xolotl ( 675282 )
            Typo, meant 73% of course.
          • Yes, 73% is extremely high, but water is a plentiful resource here in Norway so wasting it is less of a problem here compared to other countries. Water is only partially metered. Most commonly the consumption is estimated based on the size of the house, but you can opt in to pay for the actual consumption. I cannot promise that absolutely no places have mandatory metering, but that would be very uncommon. At least for housholds, I think maybe companies have to pay for actually usage more commonly.
    • Subsistence gardens?

  • So trump was right when he said some of these countries are shithole countries?
    • by HornWumpus ( 783565 ) on Sunday February 25, 2018 @05:05PM (#56184961)

      _Everybody_ knows they're shitholes, not even in dispute. Politicians are supposed to be more diplomatic.

      • Trump's not a politician. He's never held elected office in his life and after leaving office never will again. Contrast to Obama or Hillary or Bernie Sanders, people who never had straight jobs in their lives.
        • Trump's not a politician. He's never held elected office in his life and after leaving office never will again. Contrast to Obama or Hillary or Bernie Sanders, people who never had straight jobs in their lives.

          Trump might not be a politician, but the average Joe off the street has more common sense and diplomacy than Donald Trump. Most of the time that Trump says something bad and sticks his foot in his mouth (even if the press read into it more than he meant), it's the kind of thing 95% of people would know is a stupid thing to say in front of a microphone.

        • by haruchai ( 17472 )

          Trump's not a politician. He's never held elected office in his life and after leaving office never will again. Contrast to Obama or Hillary or Bernie Sanders, people who never had straight jobs in their lives.

          What do you mean by "straight job"? The only boss Trump has ever had was his dad who regularly bailed him out.
          He's done a great job of filling out a suit and promoting himself on TV. He talks about all the great buildings he's built but most were built by other people and Trump likely doesn't know the 1st thing about how to truly construct a building.
          Years ago, I worked for a millionaire who did construction & home renos and looked good in a suit - but he knew most of the trades to a high level of exper

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        He never said any such thing in public. He allegedly said it behind closed doors while trying to hammer out a compromise that would save the DACA people from possible deportation. Unfortunately Dick Durbin (D) decided it would be better to throw a hand grenade into the talks to score some political points for his party.

      • by dcw3 ( 649211 )

        Politicians are supposed to be more diplomatic

        Like it or not, being politically incorrect is one of the primary reasons that he's in office, and why he got ~$2B in free media. Many (myself included, though I did not vote for him) are sick and tired of being told what we can and can not say without some snowflake with a chip on their shoulder taking offense when we had no intention of offending them.

    • Additionally insulting was that many of the countries are shitholes directly because of previous US policy and action.
  • The article claims 16-21' of rain/year and other sources I googled indicated 12 inches. If they really get 16' of rain per year I don't see them having problems. If 12" is correct, I see how they are going to have huge problems.

    • by gwolf ( 26339 )

      The figure I have is ~600mm a year, and that's quite a lot. However, the distribution is quite far from homogeneous. Six months of daily rains, sometimes very heavy. Six months of draught. It can be worked with, in the regions of the city that have the infrastructure. The region in question for this article was built hastily and irregularly, so it doesn't.

    • The article claims 16-21' of rain/year and other sources I googled indicated 12 inches.

      Their legacy remains, hewn into the living rock ... of stonehenge.

  • by JBMcB ( 73720 )

    Everyone has the right to water. Everyone does *not* have the *right* to have water pumped, purified, then transported to wherever they wish to live. Someone has to pay for that. The people who should pay are those who use it.

    If there is no more water to be had in a particular area, and nobody wants to pay to get water delivered there, then you're going to have to move somewhere there is water.

  • On average, 107,000 cubic kilometers of precipitation falls on land every year [wikipedia.org].

    Approximately 505,000 cubic kilometres (121,000 cu mi) of water falls as precipitation each year; 398,000 cubic kilometres (95,000 cu mi) of it over the oceans.

    With a population of 7.6 billion, that's 14 million liters per person per year (38,000 liters per person per day) of fresh water literally falling from the skies.

    Water shortages are not the problem. They're a symptom. Find out what's preventing these people from movin

  • Ironically, when the ancient Aztecs first populated the area that would become modern day Mexico City they had to deal with the fact that the only land there was a small marshy island in the middle of a giant lake. The Mexican flag features an eagle eating a snake. Legend has it that when they saw this bird eating a snake that it was a sign from the gods to found a city there. So they had to invent ways of cultivating crops while they were floating on water. Now the people in this city are running out of wa

    • Modern-day Mexico City occupies quite a bit more land area than the site of that small, formerly-marshy island, the same way modern-day "Los Angeles" is unfathomably larger than the Spanish-Mexican settlement of "El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Ángeles de Porciúncula". As others have noted, the problem isn't that Mexico or Mexico City lacks water, the problem is inadequately-sized (or maintained) infrastructure.

      In Mexico City's defense... it's not always a matter of poverty or cor

  • If it's yellow let it mellow, if it's brown flush it down. (that's what we had to do during drought conditions)

  • by manu0601 ( 2221348 ) on Sunday February 25, 2018 @09:46PM (#56185671)

    It there is a truck full of water, that means there is no water shortage, but rather a problem with water distribution network

    The pipes needs to be maintained. One common problem when private companies are in charge is that they take the money to make profits and forget to maintain the network. Is that what happened in Mexico City?

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by _Sharp'r_ ( 649297 )

      No, the Federal government is in charge of regulating and managing water and the municipal government is in charge of distributing water [wikipedia.org]. So this is normal self-serving corrupt government bureaucrats and politicians, as usual. If they had private companies in charge of it, the water would actually get delivered. It's not the government supplying the clean bottled water which keeps many of these affected people alive.

      • by gwolf ( 26339 )

        Just the opposite. The issue with Iztapalapa is the region got inhabited with no planning nor authorization following a series of crises in the 1980s; there was never planning for two million people to go live in that borough, that 30 years ago was still mostly agricultural. Water pipes weren't laid before people built their houses (in some places, they haven't been set up as of yet).
        Our local government has a quite decent, given the comparison, infrastructure system in most of the city. I live in a middle-

Where there's a will, there's a relative.