Mexico City

An Ancient City Vulnerable to Climate Extremes

Language Spanish
September 14, 2011 7 p.m. local time

© 2006 Flickr/Owen Prior cc by sa 2.0

Mexico City is sinking. Mexico City is the largest and oldest city in North America, and in some places it’s sinking as much as 12 to 15 inches a year. With some 20 million residents, the dangerous impacts of a sinking city can’t go unnoticed.

Mexico City’s rich history dates back to the Aztecs, when it served as capital of an empire that spanned much of what is now Latin America.

Geographically, Mexico City sits within the Valley of Mexico, a highland valley surrounded by mountains. It was originally built on an island in the center of what was once Lake Texcoco. The lake was drained in the 17th Century in an effort to control flooding caused by groundwater flowing down from the surrounding mountainsides. Today, the city still sits on that soft clay lakebed, which has grown more and more unstable as the city continues to draw from it to supply its millions of residents with drinking water.

© 2006 Flickr/Mike Pedroncelli cc by sa 2.0

Recent extreme weather events in Mexico City, from torrential downpours to severe droughts, are wreaking havoc on this already overtaxed city. Because of the droughts and population growth, more and more water is being extracted from the water table beneath the city. As the water table lowers, the city sinks with it. As the city sinks, its sewage and wastewater tunnels start to tilt. This creates new challenges with flooding and drainage. In recent years, 23 steps were added to the base of Mexico City’s well-known Angel of Independence Monument in order to reach its base after the city had sunk around it. While Mexico City has always experienced droughts and floods, both types of extreme weather are expected to get worse as the climate changes.

Presented by Gerardo Pandal

Gerardo Pandal lives in Mexico City, an extremely densely populated city where the need for sustainability can be seen firsthand. He is the area manager for renewable energy at Guascor de México, a company that promotes energy efficiency and renewable energy. Gerardo has also worked as a consultant for a startup company called Environmental Consciousness, which was designed to provide environmental and sustainability consulting to businesses.

To learn more about this presenter, click here.