Apr 06, 2006

As the World Thirsts

In late March, water experts from around the globe gathered in Mexico City for the World Water Forum to address the rising concern about the quality of water around the world.

In the days leading up to the event, there was much discussion among water experts regarding the choice of Mexico City to host the conference. As most of you know, a number of water-related issues inundate Mexico City. Floods and water shortages are common, while rising sewage threatens to overtake a sinking water table.

Mexico City’s water issues have gotten so bad that many of the 20 million people living there get by on one hour of running water per week. Mexico City is also the second-largest consumer of bottled water in the world, just behind the U.S. in terms of volume and behind Italy in per capita consumption.

As I mentioned previously, sewage is a serious issue as heavy rainfall often overpowers the treatment plants. Meanwhile, approximately seven of every eight toilet flushes are untreated, and only 36% of the total volume of sewage is treated.

What would it take to solve Mexico City’s water and wastewater problems?

All told, funds easily ranging into the billions are needed to conduct a major overhaul of the water and wastewater infrastructure in Mexico City, and there is no way to determine how long a project like this would take.

Despite this, Mexico City may be the ideal location for the World Water Forum as the city harbors a microcosm of the very water-related issues that are becoming more common around the globe.

Considering World Water Forum organizers have said that human demand for water has increased 600% in the past 100 years due to population growth and industrialization, one can only presume that this trend will continue upward in the future. Accordingly, by 2030, two-thirds of the world’s population will live in cities and towns, resulting in dramatic increases and concentrations in urban water demands.

“Unfortunately, in many places in the world, things are not getting better. They are getting worse,” said Gordon Young, coordinator of the U.N. World Water Assessment Program in a recent U.N. press release.

With such desperation on display in regards to Mexico City’s water and wastewater systems, one can only wonder if the city may provide an epiphany, not only for the water and wastewater experts at the World Water Forum, but for the government officials who have failed to address these issues in the past.

Hopefully, World Water Forum attendees will be able to accurately address first-hand the challenges that may be faced around the globe in the future—the start of a global water solution.

While the World Water Forum does plan to release a declaration outlining global water policies, the recommendations have no legal consequences. The goal of this declaration is to help influence policy makers in their water-related decisions. It is imperative that their recommendations be taken seriously before more cities start to parallel the current water and wastewater situation faced by Mexico City.


About the author

Tim Gregorski, editorial director
[email protected]