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Mexico City Could Face Major Flooding

Mexico City

June 20, 2007

The City Was Once An Island
There is a "high possibility" a huge underground drainage tunnel in Mexico City could soon fail, flooding parts of this metropolis 15 feet deep in sewage. Officials have been puzzled for years by the gradual decrease in capacity of the approximately 20-foot-wide tunnel built in the 1970s to drain waste water from the valley, which is home to 20 million people and has no natural outlet. They have speculated that the tunnel may be partially clogged or that its walls could be decaying. But because it is constantly filled with water, officials have not been able to travel through the structure to inspect it or perform much-needed maintenance. "A failure ... could cause severe floods reaching five meters in the city's historic center, the international airport" and other boroughs on the city's east side. Poor drainage and flooding has been a historical problem for the city, especially during the rainy season that runs typically from late May through October. The Mexico Valley, where the city is located, was largely covered by lakes when the Aztecs founded the city on an island in 1325. The Aztecs built dikes to try to keep out flood waters. The Spaniards who conquered Mexico in 1521 tried to drain the lakes, which have disappeared under the urban sprawl.

NPR-Mexico City Struggles with Water Management

The Fourth World Water Forum opens in Mexico City, a city that would flunk almost any test of good water management. The city sits on a huge aquifer. But to make room for this sprawling metropolis, the water is being pumped out faster than it is being filled.

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