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“Day Zero” Approaches in Mexico City

June 02, 2024

Mexicans Voted in the Current Election with Water Top of Mind

As Mexicans went to the polls on Sunday, June 2, to elect a new president, one of the main issues on their minds was water.  A lack of water has hit poorer parts of Mexico City for a long time. Now, even wealthier areas are running out. Temperatures last week climbed above 90 degrees Fahrenheit—higher than in 150 years—while other parts of the country were even hotter with the mercury climbing above 110 degrees.  

Mexico City  | Credit: Gobierno de la Ciudad de México

Some people in working-class areas of Mexico City receive water only from 1 a.m to 6 a.m. on Fridays and Mondays, which robs them of sleep so they can store 40 gallons for the week. Others are forced to pay for truck deliveries—if they can afford it—or walk, bike, and ride horses to fill jugs at public wells.

June 26 is now called “Day Zero”—the day when the city’s system could be unable to provide any water to the 22 million residents if there’s no rainfall. Nearly 40 percent of Mexico City’s water is lost to leaky pipes, which would take billions of dollars to repair, according to the Washington Post. About 60 percent of the city’s water comes from aquifers, but as Marketplace reports, the lakes upon which the metropolis was built were drained when the Spaniards arrived, and they don’t get refilled because of impervious surfaces constructed above them.

Protesters demanding water recently formed a human chain to block streets, and the Associated Press reports they were joined by police officers who complained that their barracks lacked water for weeks, even for toilets.

In the entire country, 30 of 32 states are in drought, according to the national water commission Conagua. Experts told Reuters the problem is attributable to declining rainfall, old infrastructure, and the El Niño weather phenomenon. The record heat has led to howler monkeys dropping dead from trees in southern regions.

To make matters worse, Mexico has been consuming record amounts of electricity, leading to widespread power outages in many states.

As Indians Suffer Record Heat, Some Turn to Ancient Method to Stay Cool

In India, where presidential elections also occurred, conditions were even worse as temperatures reached 121 degrees Fahrenheit in New Delhi. Water comes to neighborhoods in tankers, causing chaos as people run to climb on top, put pipes in, and fill containers on a first-come-first-served basis. CNN reports that many miss out.

New Delhi  | Credit: Mussi Katz/Flickr

One researcher said the heat trend is a manifestation of the escalating impacts of climate change and underscores the need for robust adaptation strategies to protect lives especially among vulnerable populations. Billions of people in Asia have been suffering high temperatures worsened by climate change. Extreme heat is also plaguing Pakistan, and forecasters say it could continue for days, worsened by human-driven climate change.

To cope, some people in India are turning to an ancient method to cool the water they can get by using terracotta pots called matka. The BBC reports that as water fills the clay pot, it gets into every tiny pore and crevice. As it evaporates, it draws out heat from the water inside. The matka cools down as does the water.  The pots have been used for at least 3,000 years in rural Indian homes.

Reversing the process can be used to cool air.  One company called CoolAnt has shown that recycled water pumped over terracotta cools the air around it by taking the heat out through evaporation. They built clay cones and assembled them into a honeycomb-like tower and then placed them in schools, airports, and commercial buildings for air conditioning.

An International Court Finds Greenhouse Gases to Be Marine Pollutants

The International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea is a UN court on maritime law, and last week it delivered a “historic” opinion regarding climate change. It found that human-caused greenhouse gas emissions are a “marine pollutant” and that countries are legally obligated to mitigate its effects on oceans.

Nanumea Island, Tuvalu |  Credit: Tuvalu Coastal Adaptation Project (TCAP)/UN Development Programme (UNDP)

The ruling stemmed from a request made by a group of nine island states in the Pacific and Caribbean, the Commission of Small Island States on Climate Change and International Law (COSIS), which are threatened by sea level rise. They sought clarification of international obligations under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), a treaty signed by 169 countries that governs the use of the world’s oceans and their resources.

Although the treaty doesn’t specifically mention climate change, the court’s designation of CO2 as a pollutant means signatories are legally obligated to prevent, reduce, and control it. Furthermore, it found that under the treaty, states must protect and preserve the marine environment against the detrimental impacts of climate change, and that in areas where oceans have been degraded, measures must be taken to restore habitats and ecosystems.

Although the decision itself is an advisory opinion and not legally binding, it could nonetheless set a precedent for how courts rule in the future, including two pending before the Inter-American Court on Human Rights and the International Court of Justice. It could also significantly influence negotiations at the COP29 climate conference happening later this year.

They’re Just Playing Around, but Boaters Better Beware

Orcas (Orcinus orca), also known as Iberian killer whales, have been in the news for numerous attacks on sailboats and fishing boats off Spain and Portugal, striking nearly 700 vessels and sinking six ships since 2020, including a yacht in the Strait of Gibraltar a few weeks ago, according to GT Atlantic Orca, a group that’s been tracking incidents.

Credit: Victoria Hoete-Dodd/Creative Commons

So, do the animals have animus toward humans? Are they seeking revenge for being marine park entertainers?

Well, it may be more black and white than that. A new report by marine scientists and management authorities and released by the International Whaling Commission says that the pod of orcas near Spain are just having fun. The creatures are known to play with objects or animals in their environment, and in this case, the scientists say, a few juvenile males seem to have found ramming the rudders of ships amusing.

The orcas possibly have more free time for these high jinks, the researchers say, because, thanks to management efforts, there’s been a recovery of their favorite dish, the bluefin tuna in the area, so they can spend less of the day hunting. Also, climate change could be causing the tuna to stay in the Gulf of Cádiz rather than migrating seasonally.

The report suggests that the behavior might be a fad for the highly intelligent and social animals. Tossing porpoises for sport came and went as a trend in some pods, and decades ago in the Pacific Ocean, orcas started wearing dead salmon on their heads like a hat. The fashion statement lasted a summer before fizzling out.

Still, what’s all fun and games can quickly become dangerous, so the report recommends that for the safety of mariners—and the orcas, which are listed as critically endangered by the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature)—boats should keep moving if they see the animals nearby to reduce the risk of becoming rudderless, or worse, sinking.