Parched future

Published: Monday 15 April 1996

WHILE air pollution and smog are nothing new to them, Mexico City residents now have to contend with a disaster which could leave them literally dying of thirst. The aquifer, the main source of water for the capital city's nearly two million inhabitants, is running dry'. Says Alfonso Martinez Baca, head of Mexico City's water authority, "Mexico City's most pressing problem is not the smog, but the scarcitv of water".

Two-thiris of the water supply is met by the aquifer while the rest is pumped by darns some 120 km away. The current state of affairs is being attributed to a faulty water network which leaks nearly 30 per cent of water a day. Measures to bill the consumers for using water have never got off the ground, fearing a political backlash. This means that about half of the city's population uses water for free while the rest pay a flat tariff based on meters which are read once in three vears. The water authority, thus, operaies with a deficit of us $400 million a year, barelv enough to manage the water network.

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