APPROACH AND METHODOLOGY
Isla Urbana is working with two low income, highly water stressed communities in Mexico City to install rainwater harvesting systems. With funding from HSBC, Isla Urbana is developing and testing different implementation strategies that combine community co-participation and co-financing with external funds to create methods that achieve high adoption rates and can be applied in large scale. Co-participation is the manner in which the beneficiaries involve themselves in the implementation of their rainwater harvesting systems. Co-financing could be a personal investment by the beneficiary or it could entail individuals or communities organizing fundraising events or donations in order to make an investment into the project. The investment of time and/or money from the beneficiary has a strong correlation to the rate of use and acceptance of a rainwater harvesting system.
In order to develop an effective means of co-participation, each community will work with different models, and success will be measured by looking at adoption rates, proper use of the systems, water quality, amount of work/money invested vs. volume of water delivered, and scalability. Evaluation of the different methods will be used to develop recommendations that can be applied to more massive rainwater harvesting implementations involving government investment to make these more successful.
IMPLEMENTATION, TIMELINE, AND DELIVERABLES
The first phase of implementation, set to begin in September, 2011, will involve the installation of 25 rainwater harvesting systems in each of the two communities, implemented under two different models. Each family will co-finance the installation by paying an amount determined by how much money they will save by harvesting rainwater, or by a fixed rate (depending on the model), and will participate in different ways in the implementation process. Isla Urbana will explore differences between DIY installations with community training courses vs. training and hiring local plumbers, and will explore ways of involving the communities in coordinating the implementation and follow up work. In the second phase, to begin January 2012, Isla Urbana will install another 25 systems per community, with new methods that apply successful elements from the first phase with whatever adjustments are deemed necessary, and which look to transfer more responsibility to the communities themselves. By June, 2012, 100 systems will be installed under different models. Evaluation will take place in June-October of 2012, results and recommendations will be presented November 2012.
Mexico City, like many cities around the world, is experiencing a water crisis related to the overexploitation of groundwater and external sources. Unsustainable water management is resulting in decreasing availability of water as reflected in the increase in neighborhoods without reliable access to water, increases in the cost of water, and decreasing water quality. Rainwater harvesting offers a sustainable way of mitigating these problems, delivering water at low cost and with minimal energy consumption.
Isla Urbana has been developing rainwater harvesting systems and implementation methods with the goal of demonstrating the viability of domestic rainwater harvesting on a large scale in Mexico. Massive implementation requires government participation, and one of the big challenges is how to incorporate community co-participation, essential to achieving high adoption rates, into large scale initiatives. Through follow-up surveys and investigations on a pilot project, Isla Urbana has learned that participation by the beneficiary has a strong correlation to proper use and continued maintenance of their rainwater harvesting system. However, large scale government projects often lack a component of co-participation, resulting in a much lower rate of use and acceptance. Isla Urbana is committed to ensuring the highest acceptance rate of this technology, thus they have developed a model implementation strategy that would be the proposed methodology for the scaling rainwater harvesting throughout Mexico City. As a project working closely with communities and local government agencies to install rainwater harvesting systems, Isla Urbana is in an excellent position to develop methodologies that maximize the effectiveness of rainwater harvesting implementations.
Although Isla Urbana has completed its CGI commitment, it is now conducting more extensive research on the adoption of rainwater havest systems. Isla Urbana hopes to turn rainwater harvesting into a widely adopted form of water infrastructure in Mexico. All kinds of resources are needed and welcome, be they economic, human, or media.