Our neighbors to the south have welcomed me these past couple of days with warmth and appreciation. My hosts, a large Jersey dairy named Flor de Alfalfa (Flowers of Alfalfa) have filled me with citrus fruit and homemade yoghurt. Wow, what a combination.
I flew into Queretaro, a city of 1.5 million a little more than an hour away from Mexico City, which is 22 million. Although this is a dry place, the official rain days are 60 per year and although it has not rained the 3 days I've been here, knowing what these regions are like, I'm sure plenty of times torrents come down.
The folks here confirm that indeed numerous times a year the whole city floods with the torrent because the drainage systems are not adequate to handle the fast water. In addition, 85 percent of all sewage in Mexico is piped straight into the rivers, so when these rain events happen and overrun the drainage system, they include blackwater (human sewage) in the runoff. As they say, "not a good situation."
The aquifer here is dropping 6 feet per year as the agriculture irrigation and urban development draw too much water. Plans are underway to build a pipe extending more than 50 miles to the mountains to bring additional water in.
This weekend I'll be going to Australia (I think my 14th visit) and my most poignant memories from that dry country always include the cisterns. In every city and every rural home and building, water cisterns are everywhere. Big ones. Some are decorative and some of the biggest ones look like squatty grain bins, made out of corrugated steel. But in the middle of the city, every house and building has a cistern on the corner catching precious rainwater and storing it so it doesn't add to drainage issues and can be used later. This is such a fundamental issue for hydrating the landscape that it borders on immoral to not invest in it.
Here in Mexico they don't even have gutters on their roofs. As the world addresses water issues, whole cultures are going to have to rediscover water conservation and purity. The amount of water that runs off a roof, even in a dry region, is quite astounding. In a 31-inch rainfall area like the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, we get 20 gallons per square foot. In a dry area like this in Mexico, it's half that.
But that means that even a 1,000-sq. ft. roof catches 10,000 gallons per year, which is not a small number. When I think of what people are spending money on, from Hollywood to lottery tickets and pornography, I wonder what it will take before we invest in resource conservation. I mean real, personal investment, not just vicarious investment like an environmental nonprofit.
Have you figured the water runoff from your roof? Why not catch it?