Water Crisis Rocks LA, Mexico City; Who’s Next?


by Martin Sieff

WASHINGTON — Water, water hardly anywhere. Water crises are rocking two of the world’s largest cities as Mexico City starts a 36-hour water cutoff and Los Angeles is in the midst of a water dearth.

The problem, however, is far wider than two of the most populous cities in the Western Hemisphere. Beijing, the capital of China, has a serious water shortage. The Israelis and the Palestinians are at loggerheads over control of the key aquifers west of the River Jordan that are vital to sustain both peoples. An unprecedented world population of 6.8 billion people — more than three times that of 80 years ago — and the inexorable reality of global climate change are guaranteed to make the long-term crisis worse.

[A resident looks on while a city worker delivers her weekly water ration in containers at a low-income neighborhood in Mexico City, Thursday, April 9, 2009 The Mexican capital, one of the most densely populated cities in the world, cut in water supply to a historic fall in reserves, a measure that affects at least five million people, according to authorities. (AP Photo/Eduardo Verdugo)]

The cutoff in Mexico affects about a quarter of the capital city’s residents — 5 million people. Mexico City instituted a five-month rationing plan in January with the Thursday-Friday cutoff this week deemed necessary to fix a leaky supply system and to ease — somewhat — a supply problem that began when the lakes that once flooded the city were drained 40 years ago.

The leaks problem is not small. Half of Mexico City’s water supply is lost through lousy infrastructure alone — primarily through leaking pipes.

The change in weather patterns over the North American continent has taken its toll too, just as it did in Los Angeles.

Mexico’s National Water Commission said that the capital city’s water supply system is at its lowest level — less than 50 percent capacity after low rainfall totals last year and the leaky delivery system.

In Los Angeles, the City Council unanimously turned back a rationing plan Wednesday that had been put together by the city’s Department of Water and Power, which is caught between the council and a statewide order from California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to cut usage 20 percent.

If the city fails to take action, the agency that supplies the bulk of water to Los Angeles could impose rationing.




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