This is an exclusive preview of the 2015/16 edition of Mexico Energy & Sustainability Review. If you want to get all the information, plus other relevant insights regarding this industry, get your copy of Mexico Energy & Sustainability Review 2015/16.
Mexico City was not always the concrete jungle that it is today. During the reign of the Aztecs, it has been reported that the city was built on an island in the middle of Lake Texcoco, with canoes used to navigate the connecting canals and advanced water management techniques to mitigate damage to the area’s biodiversity. It was only when the Spanish settlers arrived and decided to build over Tenochtitlan, extending its area to cover the expanse of water without taking the proper precautions that the city began to experience problems. As a result of the mistreatment of the land, tipping of rubbish, and overpumping of the lake, Mexico City now finds itself sinking into a chasm of its own making, in the face of chronic flooding, a shrinking infrastructure budget and a shortage of clean water.
As the population increases, so too does the amount of waste water. The overpumping of water from the lake bed has also intensified, and the fact that the city is covered by asphalt and cement means that replenishment of the aquifers is limited to only 8% of annual rainfall. With a problem that involves both flooding during wet season and a shortage of clean drinking water, several initiatives have been attempted in order to address these inherently linked issues. At the beginning of the 20th century, President Porfirio Diaz inaugurated the 47.5km Gran Canal to carry sewage from the city. Additionally, the Cutzamala water system carries clean water from other states, flowing through seven dams and several hundred miles of pipes.
However, demand is still not met, and around 40% of the clean water is lost through inefficient piping. As a response to Mexico’s growing water crisis, CONAGUA constructed the Atontilco wastewater treatment plant, the largest of its kind in Latin America and one of the largest in the world. The plant has an average capacity of 23,000l/s, with the potential for an extra 12,000l/s during the rainy season. The system digests anaerobic sludge through 28 points measuring 13,500m3 each, with which methane can be derived to be used for generation of electricity. This allows the plant to power itself, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and sludge volume. The project is designed to mitigate the contamination of the Valle de Mezquital, which has been an unrelenting problem over the last 100 years. Not only will the treatment plant improve living conditions for more than 700,000 people, it will lead to diversified cultivation of more than 80,000 hectares of land, and will allow for the exploration of new economic sectors such as ecotourism.
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