Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Tuesday, April 05, 2016

Water and state capacity

Not capacity for water, but capacity to provide the constitutionally guaranteed safe water to citizens. It's a challenge in Mexico.

Leaking pipes mean Mexico City, flush with water, has to truck it in
The cinder block homes lining the hillsides on the edge of this metropolis are connected to the municipal network of water pipes.

But the water doesn't arrive that way. It comes on tanker trucks…
In a city built on a lake bed where it rains all summer, the problem isn't exactly a shortage of water. Rather the infrastructure of pipes is so riddled with cracks that a third of the water the city puts into the system leaks into the ground…

Making matters worse, the city's population is growing fastest in the places where the water supply is the most unreliable. Home to about 2 million people, Iztapalapa is a common destination for people relocating in search of work.

Wealthier areas of the city, in contrast, usually have enough water to fill their swimming pools, wash their SUVs and water their golf courses…

Efforts to extend the water infrastructure failed to keep pace with the city's expansion…

About a million residents — more than a tenth of the city's population — rely on the trucks for their water…

The water is usually not potable — residents throughout the city buy bottled water for drinking — but without it, even basic sanitation is impossible…

[T]he chief of the city's water system, called rainwater collection a "provisional measure" at best.

As a longer-term solution, he said, the city plans to start construction this year of 22 water recycling plants, which will clean sewage and send the water back to homes, an increasingly common practice in cities around the world. The project is part of a plan to provide water to all residents by 2018.

The city also aims to repair all of its cracked pipes over the next seven years.

But as leaks are patched, new ones are likely to spring open. And if the population keeps growing, it will require even more water to sustain itself.

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