“We will reach a point in the next years where we won’t have water for the population, nor for the industries or businesses”. This somber forecast by Alfonso Martinez Muñoz, Undersecretary of Natural Resources and Environmental Protection of the State of Nuevo León, has propelled a collaboration among a range of stakeholders in the city of Monterrey to come up with solutions to better manage the water supply. Monterrey is located in the state of Nuevo León, where dry and semi-dry climates predominate, making it highly vulnerable to scarcity or lack of water. Indeed, the Metropolitan Water Fund of Monterrey (FAMM) estimates that the current supply of water in the Metropolitan Area of Monterrey is insufficient to meet the projected needs in the next years.
Scarcity is not the only problem with water in Monterrey; both the surface water and groundwater are contaminated by polluted discharges from industries and smaller businesses. This of course has a very harmful effect on agriculture, on general consumption, and on the ecosystem in general, and when there is virtually no use of rainwater and reuse of treated wastewater, the situation is further aggravated. Add to this the warmer temperatures and droughts, and the overall pressure on water resources is intensified. The National Water Commission (CONAGUA) is already predicting less availability of water in Mexico due to the effects of climate change and a greater variability in the traditional patterns of precipitation.
So when the PROADAPT Program, financed by the IDB and the Nordic Development Fund (NDF), looked to get involved in the Monterrey area, there was already a keen interest to find innovative solutions to improve the management of current water resources. The project proposes looking at both the demand and supply side. By reducing and monitoring the consumption on the one hand, but also by increasing the availability of clean water by eliminating some of the pollutants that enterprises discharge, it is anticipated that the water resilience of SMEs can be improved.
Using data to make consumption more efficient
Water meters are already part of the water distribution infrastructure in Monterrey, but the introduction of new technology from the University of Arizona will allow for better understanding of who is using the water for what. Using the information from the meters will help reduce the water footprint in companies and SMEs that otherwise maintain very high levels of water consumption and discharge of pollutants. The information will help the companies evaluate their activities and processes to find alternatives to reduce the unnecessary consumption of different inputs and services, and to reduce the generation of waste, discharges and emissions that impact the environment.
An innovative aspect is that the project will link SMEs with the state government, academia, the private sector and civil society. Moreover, Future H2O of the University of Arizona will be able to analyze the efficiency of SMEs in Monterrey by looking at the data that an intelligent sensor feeds to a real-time data analysis platform. This in turn allows distributors to visualize their impacts on water scarcity through their supply chain, and to better manage the resources.
A more efficient, climate-smart management of the water supply, will allow Monterrey to ensure that this valuable resource will be available to fulfill the needs of its population now and for many years to come.
*This blog post was co-authored with Lene Mikkelsen, who provides consulting services for the IDB’s PROADAPT program.
Photo: Copyright © Rick González – Flickr – (CC BY 2.0)