Award: Harvard Graduate School of Design Summer Research Grant 
Conference: Invited by the Harvard Alumni for Climate and the Environment for the Solutions to Combat the Climate Crisis event 
Master thesis project in collaboration with Mitsue Guerrero Monsalve
Independant Design Engineering Project MDE


The world is facing a global water crisis. 1/7 have no access to safe water today. In 30 years the world population will double when our use for water will be multiplied by 4
It affects every continent and was listed in 2019 by the World Economic Forum as one of the largest global risks in terms of potential impact over the next decade.

This scarcity will affect the world unequally and more regions will suffer more than others to climate change. 
Big cities are the future of humanity. With demography increase, they will be struggling the most with providing safe water to the population.
Mexico city is one of the city where the hydric stress is the highest and where it will affect the most inhabitants. 

Mexico-city is originally a water based city built on a lake. Aztec capital Tenochtitlan is at the center of Mexico mythical history, the aztec gods commanded to build a city on this lake. Aztecs then developed a innovative agriculture and engineering to build and expand the city capital on the lake. 
In 1500 century, Spanish colonizers adopted the European city model and drained the lake. With the city expansion, the whole lake ended up being drained, and the city totally impermeable.


Looking at the water in the city at a system level, we realize how complex and unbalanced it is, and how the natural cycle of water has been disrupted with time.
How to achieve sustainability in the city?
Sustainability can be achieved with the 3 pillars: Economic, Social and Environmental
Those pillars are driven by 4 major forces : Technology, Demography, Capital and Climate.
In the case of Mexico-City, we gonna observe those forces are highly stressed.

- Over 20 millions population
beyond political boundaries where public utilities operate
- Growth rate > stress on the system
Rural exodus and extreme inequality
(0.48 GINI coefficient) = slum dwellers in the city periphery
- Supply/demand
- No planning for resources Impact the ability of city to provide services such as water.

- Infrastructure maintenance 
38% of water supply lost to leaks
- Solution has been to increase water supply, bringing from far away places = Same energy cost as Puebla city (4th) for water pumping
- Inequality
- In different areas of the city on water availability and quality
- Public and private initiatives
In diverse areas: rain harvest (landscape / domestic),  water storage, water treatment (industrial / commercial / domestic), water reuse, alternative water supply (water bottles / water trucks), etc.

- Impermeable surfaces and Heavy rain
during 4 months wet season (expected to increase with climate change). The city is extremely vulnerable to flood
- No aquifer recharge
With heavy pumping: over 297% exploitation rate
- Lake bed sediments sinks 30cm/year due to ground water extraction + Victim of the sinking Cocos plate (7cm/year) = fragile piping infrastructure

- Decentralized system 
multiple stakeholders suppliers (who bear the costs) run on gov allocated budget don’t have decision making power (price of water)

- Highly subsidized tariffs 
that are not reflective of the unequal cost of water supply

- Continuously overloaded system 
with no capital for reparation or maintenance = pipes over 60 years old

- No Public Private Partnerships
“water as a public right so it should be managed my public institutions” 
We reached out and engaged with a large spectrum of stakeholders tackling different aspect of the problem
Different initiatives, and types of stakeholders invested in this and somewhat linked to this problem.
They work in silos, but they lack a platform or system that links them together. We identified the need for a cross sector approach, because none of them is approaching it in a holistic way.
The nature of the problem, with a decentralized system, ignores the inter-relatedness of the problem
If we want to think about it in a circular and sustainable way we need to think about how to begin to address it holistically.
Projected reduction of Water access

Today, 1/4 of the city doesn't have a decent access to water.

SACMEX Mexico-city water public utily projected that 3/4 of the city will have a limited access to safe water.
Individual water consumption

While the problem is larger than us we found a leverage point was at the individual consumption level, with domestic use accounting for half of the use. 
So there’s a huge opportunity for an intervention at the citizens level that we can tackle thanks to our human-centered design expertise


This is the reason why we decided to lead extensive user research during a field trip in Mexico-city.
- extreme users
- individual and businesses
- initiatives
- water perception
Quality testing
Data collection
- bills collection


Mexico city inhabitants are not consuming water sustainably because they don’t perceive water as a finite and shared resource.
A tool could help raise awareness of the high water stress and the inequalities in the city and improve consumption behavior.


We want to reduce individual water consumption by using behavioral science and smart water technology.


- Measure water availability of the city for the month

- Distribute resources between public services, storage for city resilience, and no. of citizens.

- This allocates a daily water consumption goal + fair share of liters of that day, which are measured in this currency called e-litros

- At the end of the day all the liters you saved,have a value and can be used to buy lottery tickets or donate to a water fund.

A non intrusive smart water mater is designed to collect household individual data. The components of the device are relatively affordable, and the price of a meter can reach $30 when manufactured. This smart meter is easy to install and a service design will accompany the user through the process.
Ultrasonic technology 

Ultrasonic meters use high-­frequency sound waves to measure flows, helping improve reliability and extend low flow accuracy. Within each meter, electronic transducers send high-frequency sound signals consecutively, in forward and reverse directions.
Data analytics

The smart water meter provides the flow rate in Gallon Per Minutes 'GPM).
This flow rate data can be analysed and provide the water consumed on different devices.
User's historical data of water usage/device can then be used to set the uses goals


- Dashboard that allows you to see your remaining liters for the day
- Healthy Competition:
Comparison to your previous consumption
Comparison to the city average
Comparison your district average, and competition within districts
Comparison on your block average and competition within blocks level
- Engaging:
Personal-goal setting
Rewards for sustained good-behavior
Welcome back message: gets you virtual liters randomly to keep the app engaging
- Trading of virtual liters
- Virtual liters as currency


- Rain/Sun: inform about the natural cycle of water and the wet or dry season
-  Customized tips and trick, based on your consumption behavior, for short and long term, and for different budgets
- Shows water history of the city
- Shows the differences of water supply, quality and consumption in the districts.
- Flood and risks maps


- Pay your bill
- Leak alerts
- Alerts about infrastructure maintenance operations and water cuts

We adopted a bottom-up vision of change. Our goal is layered in several steps we believe that by tackling awareness of the individual on the water situation, water consumption will be impacted,
That the saved water will save 6 times the cost of this water. And that this cost could be invested in more sustainable infrastructures and solve the larger problem
We make the theory of change that the individuals, with small changes in his daily consumption behavior will be able to make great impact for the future of his city
By focusing individuals domestic consumption, it will have a positive impact on the whole complex water cycle of the city. This intervention aims to tackle social, economical and environmental aspect, 
We aim to achieve sustainability. 
Since this approach is bottom up and the change comes from the individual, this systemic integrated solution could be replicable and adapted in other cities that are facing a water crisis.

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