International survey finds fresh water pollution, scarcity drive public concern

By Keith Schneider with Nadya Ivanova and Aaron Jaffe
Circle of Blue

By day Valentin Pérez Hernandez, a 24-year-old gardener in Mexico City, tends the borders and beds, the soil and seed, the red-flowering bushes and lushly scented paths that wind through the Jardines del Pedregal, one of the city’s wealthiest neighborhoods. Though his cart is filled with weeders, shovels and shears, Hernandez’ most important tool is the clean fresh water that pours from the end of his garden hose.

By night Hernandez retreats to his home in an impoverished neighborhood not far away, joining millions of Mexico City residents, working and poor, whose lives are disrupted daily by water shortages, sewage spills, contamination and waterborne disease. Public mismanagement and an old and fractured plumbing network are no longer capable of consistently delivering enough clean, safe fresh water to much of the world’s third largest metropolitan region.

“I have a lot of indignation for the political leaders for not paying attention to the fact that many of us do not have water,” Hernandez said. “We have gone up to 15 days without water. This is not fair because everyone is not doing their part. More than anything, people are not conscious of this.”

He added: “I don’t have words to describe this problem. Without water we are nothing. Without water this world wouldn’t exist. Without water we can’t do anything. So it’s the most important.”