Implementing strategies to guarantee the present and future of water in the face of the warning of a water crisis in the world was the call of specialists during the 2022 International Water Forum of the Tec de Monterrey.
Representatives from Ciudad del Cabo, South Africa, Sao Paulo, Brazil, and California, United States, analyzed the water problems and public policies created around the shortage and management of the liquid in the post-COVID-19 era.
Zero Day was the theme of the third edition of the International Water Forum, an initiative of the Tec de Monterrey that seeks to position Monterrey as a Latin American space for the discussion of border issues around water.
“They are global problems but you have to act locally. A single actor cannot solve it and you need those spaces that can convene different actors and have a long-term vision,” said David Garza Salazar, rector and president of Tec de Monterrey.
Urban water management in times of crisis
Effective communication, will and leadership among all the actors in water issues are some of the ways to solve the crisis, said Rosario Sánchez, a researcher at the Texas Water Resources Institute.
This was expressed during the panel Urban water management in times of crisis and pointed out
“We are experiencing a new paradigm: the demand for a paradigm change, what makes us noise? Missing information, education, groups dedicated to hydrology and water administration. “How many groups in Mexico do we not know of people who work in resource management? That's the gist. Science and public policy”.
In today's world, EXATEC also added, there is a break in the development model based on the intensive and extensive use of natural resources, particularly water.
“Last year world agriculture produced food for 10 billion people. Food needs 20% of the water. In Mexico, a third of food is wasted,” added the researcher.
Jean-Martin Brault, senior specialist in Water and Sanitation in the Latin America and the Caribbean region of the World Bank, addressed the equitable distribution of water during his participation and indicated:
“You can't find an optimal solution if you don't talk to all the stakeholders. If we want a sustainable solution we have to think about inclusion”.
Talking about the intermittent water supply was Frank Loge, director of the Center for Water-Energy Efficiency at the University of California. He explained that there are problems such as the filling time (of water) in pipes and the possibility of contaminant entry.
“Most of the water is in a system that is pumped into a tank that flows by gravity to the houses. If you increase the residence time in the tank, you could lose your disinfection residues.
“This is not good for human populations. It could promote pipe corrosion and then have taste and odor issues, so these are all intermittent water supply issues that need to be checked,” Loge said.
Share lessons from droughts
In the forum organized by the Tec de Monterrey, specialists also spoke about the scarcity of water experienced in Mexico and other countries and the lessons learned from those droughts.
Heriberto Ramírez, director of sanitation for Agua y Drenaje de Monterrey, said that the drought that Nuevo León experienced this year arose from various causes:
“We had a very important lack of precipitation. Another important point was the combination of the decrease in water and population growth. The population of Nuevo León is 5 million 700 thousand, but it grows 2 percent per year”.
He explained that a lack of planning was also combined. He added that among the lessons learned, a culture change in water care needs to be made.
“We need to build that path towards sustainability. We are working with technology, with new actions that allow us to change, mainly that, the reduction of consumption and lowering to a number so that it is sustainable”, he mentioned.
More water sources and rotating them, replacing the use of drinking water with treated wastewater for irrigation, urban and industrial use, as well as the indirect reuse of drinking water, are other actions that will be sought, added the public official.
Carmen Navarro, head of Chihuahua's Hydrometric Sectorization of Water and Sanitation, for her part, pointed out that adaptive planning must be designed. “Right now we are planning for 2050, trying to reach point number one, but what if there are effects or factors that divert us from there and make us reach point number
“We must have the control, the knowledge and the data to make the decisions to change that route. Everyone, operators and users, must change the way we do things”, he pointed out.
In the case of the Las Vegas Valley, in the United States, an error in the calculations of predecessors, as well as climate change, caused Lakes Mead and Powell to begin to empty, said Greg Walch, of the general council of the Water District of that city.
“Everyone has to be part of the solution, everyone has a certain right and feels entitled to be able to use the water no matter how much is left. Everyone needs to sacrifice something and compromise if they want to prevent the system from breaking down," he explained.
In the case of Cape Town, in South Africa, Michael Webster, executive director of Water and Sanitation of said city, said that in 2015 they suffered from drought, which was eradicated thanks to a model to encourage the reduction of its use.
For this there was an aggressive administration, pipes were repaired, people were given financial incentives to save water and those who wasted it were fined, in addition to an intensive advertising campaign for two years.
With this, the use of the vital liquid fell by 50 percent and reserves have improved, he pointed out and added:
“Use crises to leverage other core challenges.”
In Brazil, the recent drought occurred in 2014 when the Cantareira water system in Sao Paulo had low levels.
The water could be recovered thanks to awareness campaigns, bonuses and fines, and a reasonable water use program, mentioned Dante Ragazzi, superintendent of Integrated Planning of the Brazilian city.
The specialist pointed out that water administrators and agencies have a fundamental role in defining the rules, designing contingency plans and making decisions.
"Another important thing in decision making: time, the selection of alternatives and the ability to deal with different adverse events, including communication and transparency to all stakeholders," he stressed.
"They are global problems but you have to act locally."- David Garza
Tec de Monterrey and sustainability
Juan Pablo Murra, rector of Professional and Graduate Programs at Tec de Monterrey pointed out that the institution has created the Ruta Azul sustainability plan to mitigate climate change.
“We work on issues of irrigation, adaptation, education, research, outreach and culture. We have to change the culture of people and organizations to obtain the capacity to manage ourselves in a sustainable manner”, he stated.
The vice president of Inclusion, Social Impact and Sustainability of the Tec, Inés Sáez, listed some of the achievements of the Blue Route in its first year.
“We managed to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by 28 percent compared to 2019. We reached 100% renewable energy consumption at the Zambrano Hellion and San José hospitals.
"We actively collaborated so that 14 municipalities of Nuevo León joined the Race to Zero initiative and established the commitment to be carbon neutral by 2050 at the latest," he stated.
"We have to change the culture to obtain the ability to manage ourselves sustainably."- Juan Pablo Murra
The institution's report mapped more than 53 initiatives by the Tec community around the UNODS Sustainable Development Goal Climate Action, and more than 22 regarding clean water and sanitation, he added.
The International Water Forum 2022
The International Water Forum is an initiative of the Tecnológico de Monterrey, whose vision is to position Monterrey as the Latin American space for the discussion of border issues around water.
The objectives of the 2022 edition were:
- Analyze and share the experiences of internationally emblematic cities that had to face their Day Zero, when running out of water.
- Discuss, based on selected international and national experiences, pressing challenges in urban water management.
- Present research papers by students of the Tecnológico de Monterrey regarding water security.
It was held on October 6 and 7 in the Rectory Hall, on the Monterrey campus.