Mexico City, the fifth largest city in the world with 22 million people, may be completely out of drinking water this summer. The situation will deeply harm the city in both humanitarian and financial ways. The projected date for the water to run out, if anyone can be precise, is August 26, 2024.
The dam-created reservoirs around the valley where the city is located are less than a third full. This information is part of the calculation by Mexico’s National Water Commission. The two lines of aqueduct that provide water to Mexico City are predicted to collapse if they become empty. Seasonal rains might partially help resolve the problem, but with the effects of climate change, those rains could bring less water than usual.
Twenty-two percent of Mexico’s GDP is from Greater Mexico City (Mexico City and 60 adjacent municipalities). This is like comparing the GDPs of California and Texas to the overall US GDP.
Modern history has no precedent for a city as large as Mexico City losing its entire fresh water supply. Many of the world’s other largest cities don’t have water supply problems because of heavy rains in the region or because they are adjacent to lakes or rivers. Tokyo, for example, is the world’s largest city, with a metro population of 37 million, and relies on a series of large rivers to its north and west.
Mexico’s city water dilemma adds it to a list of heavily populated areas worldwide that can no longer support their populations because of climate change-triggered heat, flood, pollution, and drought problems. The only solution to this problem is migration from these places, and for a metro the size of Mexico City, that is not an option, economically or logistically. There are no other areas of similar labor demand in the entire country.
If the Mexico City water system does collapse, this could be the first test of whether a huge metro can be so badly crippled by the climate crisis that it, in turn, causes a collapse of its national economy.