Mexico City Water Management Strategies to Avoid “Day Zero”

Home / Adaptation Strategy / Mexico City Water Management Strategies to Avoid “Day Zero”
Mexico City Water Management Strategies to Avoid “Day Zero”

Mexico City, one of the largest cities in the world, home to 22 million people, is at risk of running out of water soon.

The CNN article explains how the city was built 400-500 years ago, growing demands for water as the city and population expanded, unsustainable water practices, and climate change all contributed to its current predicament.

According to the article, the Spaniards arrived in Mexico in the early 16th century and replaced the city of Tenochtitlan that the Aztecs built in 1325. While the Aztecs built their city around the water, constructing bridges and a network of canals, the Spaniards viewed the series of lakes as an obstacle to creating the city.

They drained the lakebeds, cleared the forest, filled the canals, and paved over the land, including the wetlands and rivers, removing the soil’s natural ability to absorb water and replenish aquifers. Heavy rains cause floods, and in the dry season, the soil is parched.

Underground aquifers are Mexico City’s primary source of water (60%), but over-extraction is causing the land to subside at an alarming rate—20 inches a year. The rest of its water source comes from the Cutzamala water system, a complex inter-basin transfer built in three stages from the late 1970s to 1994 to supply water from the Cutzamala River to the Mexico City metropolitan area (MCMA) and the Valley of Toluca metropolitan area. 

Leaks from the water distribution are at 40%, and droughts are decreasing water levels in Catamaran’s network of reservoirs, now operating at 39%, at its lowest level on record.

The network, however, suffers from leaks, where 40% of the water is lost before it can reach its customers.

The article cites research, reports, and articles showing Mexico’s escalating water problems.

A February report shows that 60% of Mexico is experiencing moderate to exceptional drought, and nearly 90% of Mexico City is in severe drought. According to the article, three years of La Niña has brought drought, and the El Niño that came the following year in 2023 delivered a short rainy season that has failed to recharge the reservoirs. But climate change is behind this regular climate variability, stoking more prolonged droughts, intense heat waves, and heavy rains.

Day Zero looms

Local media reports that day zero could come on June 26 without sufficient rain. Experts warn of a spiralling crisis. If water practices continue, Mexico could run out of water before the rainy season.

Poor areas in the city are already experiencing water scarcity. Their taps would trickle for one to two hours, leaving them with insufficient water. Water supplied from truck deliveries can be costly for most of these residents. However, wealthier sections of the city are most unaffected by water scarcity, highlighting the inequality of the impacts.

Solutions to water scarcity in Mexico City

The article presented several strategies the city can implement to avoid “day zero” and ensure sustainable water supplies. These solutions include better wastewater treatment, rainwater harvesting, fixing the water system’s leaks, and nature-based solutions like restoring rivers and wetlands.

Cape Town, Africa, also had a water crisis in 2018, and the measures that the city applied that allowed them to dodge their day zero can guide Mexico. What saved the city of 4.6 million residents from this water catastrophe was a combination of sustained public communications and innovative engineering solutions.

According to Brookings, daily communications with residents and accurate measurement of water production and dam levels have allowed the city to set a daily water target per resident.

This has made the dam’s reservoirs last until the rainfall season. The government has also increased investment in its water infrastructure (upgrades, water pipe replacement, water pressure management, water reuse, etc.) and plans to continue implementing the lessons learned during the crisis with its residents.


Paddson, L., Guy, J., & Gutiérrez, F. (2024, February 25). One of the world’s biggest cities may be just months away from running out of water. CNN. Retrieved from

Hill- Lewis, G. (2023, March 22). Cape Town: Lessons from managing water scarcity. Brookings. Retrieved from 

Leave a Reply

Translate »