Climate change and population growth is shifting the face of some of the most iconic cities around the world. Shit has literally hit the fan in many beloved cities. Some parts of the world are seeing the worst droughts they have ever experienced. A true water crisis.
In this post we examine two cities at the front lines of climate change, Cape Town and Mexico City. These examples reveal the harsh realities climate change as these cities scramble to preserve their water supply in the face of unprecedented droughts.
Cape Town, South Africa
Cape Town is a bit of an oxymoron. Despite being surrounded by water, Cape Town finds itself at risk of running out of water. The city is now at the front lines of climate change as it fights to stave off a dwindling water supply.
When Cape Town revealed it could very well become the first city on earth to run out of water, it caught the media’s attention. Fortunately for the coastal city, the rains have finally arrived after a three-year drought. Cape Town appears to have pulled itself back from the brink, for now.
So what did Capetonians learn from this experience? Will Cape Town dry out again? What solutions have been brought to the table to prevent this?
For starters, legislation is being introduced to ensure homes are more water-efficient. Water conservation is now top of mind for people in Cape Town as they try to prevent another drought.
Could this be enough to prevent another devastating drought? Some residents turned to more unorthodox idea’s to solve Cape Town’s water crisis. According to sources acquired by the BBC, Nick Sloane, a South African ship captain, proposed he could solve the water crisis by dragging a 100 million ton iceberg north from the Antarctic into one of Cape Town reservoirs.
The ship captain believes, the current between Antarctica and South Africa is cold enough to preserve the iceberg during the voyage. But it would be no easy feat, as the iceberg would have to be dragged 1,200 nautical miles north to Cape Town. One of these icebergs would provide enough water for a third of Cape Town’s residents for an entire year. As you would imagine – city leaders are skeptical of this idea. Hopefully they will never have to resort to that plan.
Mexico City, Mexico
While the South African city represents a worst-case scenario, it isn’t the only one that’s facing water shortages. Mexico City is experiencing its own strain on water mains. The Mexican capital is a city of another water paradox. While it receives around 30 inches of rainfall each year, it is at constant risk of water shortage. A crumbling infrastructure is one of the main reasons for these shortages.
Mexico City sits on a lakebed in the mountains, a mile and a half above sea level. In the 1300s, the Aztecs built the beginnings of Mexico City on an island surrounded by lakes. When Spanish conquerors came they drained the lakes and constructed a larger city. In the process, eliminating what could have been an abundant source of drinkable water.
Historically, the city has relied on ground water beneath the lakebed for its water supply. As the city’s population grows, Mexico City is forced to drill deeper into the lakebed for new water sources. The excessive drilling has led to the cities slow sink into the lakebed it sits on.
As the city sinks – it is causing the underlying system of water pipes to burst under the pressure of the moving Earth. As much as one third of the cities fresh water is lost due to leaks from water pipe bursts in an already water scarce part of the world. In some areas shortages are so severe that water is delivered by truck once a week.
To make matters worse for the citizens of Mexico City. Large corporations are responsible for consuming the majority of the fresh drinking water. According to recent findings from the Metropolitan Autonomous University, soft drink manufactures and bottle manufacturers in the Mexican capital are consuming vast amounts of water and draining aquifers while paying the government a minimal price. Many aquifers have already been exhausted. Forcing everyday Mexican citizens to import and buy bottled water from outside Mexico.
One solution? Mexico City needs to hold companies more accountable. Unfortunately, Mexico City’s water crisis will likely become much worse before city leader smarten up.