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Mexico City Water Crisis Could Result in 'Day Zero' Water Shutoff for Millions

4 months ago
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Mexico City, one of the world’s largest metropolises, is facing a severe water shortage crisis as a result of extended drought conditions, infrastructure failures, and climate change impacts that have put intense strain on an already overburdened water system. The situation has become so dire that some experts warn the city could be just months away from a ‘Day Zero’ scenario where water runs dry for millions of residents.

For years, abnormally low rainfall and increased temperatures have added stress to reservoirs that supply over 60% of Mexico City’s water. Authorities have introduced major usage restrictions on reservoir water, but levels have still fallen to historic lows. The Cutzamala system, a major supply network responsible for 25% of Mexico City’s water, is currently at only 39% capacity after years of drought.

In October, Mexico’s National Water Commission announced an 8% Cutzamala restriction to preserve supply. Just weeks later, an alarming 25% cut was instituted given the system’s rapid decline. According to a February report, almost 60% of Mexico faces moderate to exceptional drought, with nearly 90% of Mexico City in severe drought. The next rainy season is still months away, meaning conditions will likely worsen.

While natural climate variability plays a key role, human-caused climate change exacerbates longer and more intense droughts and heatwaves. Last summer’s brutal heatwaves, which claimed over 200 lives, would have been “virtually impossible” without warming temperatures. On top of climate factors, breakneck urbanization has overwhelmed Mexico City’s already strained centralized water infrastructure.

The human-constructed geography of Mexico City makes it inherently vulnerable to water crises. The megacity stretches across a high-altitude lake bed and was built on clay-rich soils, causing it to sink at an alarming rate. Most rainwater cannot permeate the vast concrete and asphalt landscape, failing to replenish underground aquifers. Supplying water is highly inefficient given the distances it must be pumped. Approximately 40% is lost en route due to leaks.

Meanwhile, the population balloons exponentially, with over 4 million more residents expected by 2030. Yet water infrastructure enhancements lag far behind. Antiquated pipes hemorrhage water as demand swells beyond capacity.

Streamlining and expanding the strained system is now an urgent priority.

Mexico City Barrels Towards Crisis Point as ‘Day Zero’ Looms

Experts fiercely debate whether Mexico City’s water crisis could reach a Day Zero scenario – when reservoirs drop so low that taps run dry citywide.

In early February, media widely reported a claim from an official that without rain, Day Zero could hit as early as June 26th. However, the government quickly dismissed this as politically-motivated “fake news”.

While authorities downplay the prospect of catastrophic failure, scientists warn the city is on borrowed time if no immediate action is taken.

"We will probably face a Day Zero," says Dr. Fabiola Sosa-Rodríguez, an engineering professor studying Mexico City's water resources. She clarifies Day Zero won't mean a complete system collapse since the city has multiple supply sources. However, without intervention, "most of the people won't have water."


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