Saturday, January 31, 2009

mexico city rationing water

LATimes | Already-scarce water gets even scarcer this weekend for millions of Mexicans.

One of the world's largest cities is launching a rationing plan in a drastic -- and some say overdue -- effort to conserve water after rampant development, mismanagement and reduced rainfall caused supplies to drop to dangerously low levels.

Starting Saturday, water will be cut or reduced to homes in at least 10 boroughs in Mexico City plus 11 other municipalities in the state of Mexico, which surrounds the capital. The action affects an estimated 5.5 million people and includes neighborhoods ranging from affluent Lomas de Chapultepec on the western edge of the city to poor, densely populated Iztapalapa in the southeast.

Full service is expected to be returned sometime Tuesday. Similar cuts will be carried out every month until the rainy season begins, usually around May.

"We are running out of water," Jorge Efren Villalon, a senior official with the National Water Commission, told Mexican radio Thursday.

The level at the main reservoir from which this urban area of nearly 20 million people gets its water for drinking and washing has dipped below 60% of capacity, Villalon said, the lowest in 16 years.

Water management is one of the most daunting chronic problems, like trash disposal and traffic flow, plaguing sprawling cities across the world. Experts say Mexico has failed to take actions needed to upgrade aqueducts, pipes and treatment plants and has allowed construction projects in areas that should be used for catching runoff and replenishing aquifers.