Costo Tandeo

With Dry Taps and Useless Pipes, People Through Mexico City Use Buckets to Fetch Water

In many neighborhoods in Mexico’s capital city, access to water is infrequent and unreliable. Throughout the city, residents have found ways to adapt to the shortage.

MEXICO CITY, MEXICO — Nearly all of the 9 million people who live within this capital city’s limits have water pipes in their homes. But increasingly, having water come out of those pipes on demand is a luxury.

A fifth of the nearly 2.7 million homes in the city don’t receive water daily, according to the Instituto Nacional de Estadística y Geografía, the Mexican government’s statistics and geography division. The city’s water agency, Sistema de Aguas de la Ciudad de México (SACMEX), reports that 15 percent of its users receive water just once a day.

Across the city, residents say they’re not sure when water will be available. Some blame the shortage on a luxury building boom or suspect that water is being siphoned away from communities that need it.

Even schools in the city often have dry taps.

“It’s a serious situation because it tells us about a level of lack of development in one of the most basic services, related to a human right,” says Gloria Soto Montes de Oca, a professor who specializes in water management at the Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana Unidad Cuajimalpa.

Those forced to find water from sources other than the city’s pipe system must pay more than those who get it via taps in their homes, she says.

There are serious costs associated with “bad service,” she says, including time spent gathering and carrying water and buying it when all else fails.

The frequency with which water comes to residents, and the amount they receive before the local supply is tapped out, varies widely by location. SACMEX records confirm the experiences of people who live outside the city’s wealthier neighborhoods. In working class areas, water comes and goes, often without warning. Some say they leave their water faucets on permanently, with buckets beneath them, because they’re never sure when water might start to flow.

Global Press Journal visited dozens of city residents to find out how they deal with water scarcity. Here are a few of their stories.

Rishi Khalsa, GPJ, translated this story from Spanish.