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Got water? Hard to know in Mexico City.

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Julio Cortez/AP

(Read caption) People run through a water fountain in front of the illuminated Revolution Monument in Mexico City, Jan. 4.

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The usually leaky faucet had stopped its perpetual drip. So it didn’t come as a surprise when, instead of a stream of fresh water, I opened the faucet to a gurgling, gagging sound.

Not a drop.

It was the third occasion in roughly a month when the water at my apartment in a middle class Mexico City neighborhood disappeared without warning. The city government frequently alerts residents a day or two in advance when there will be a shutdown, but in the most affected neighborhoods, it’s easy to get caught unawares.

There was no announcement, no time to fill the washing machine with water to divvy out for cleaning dishes, flushing toilets, or taking a meager bath with a pot of water heated on the stove.

With 20 million-plus inhabitants in the metropolitan area, Mexico City’s water woes are hardly surprising [read more about water in Mexico City in our recent megacity series]. 

Every day, the city repairs 50 to 60 broken pipes, says Ramon Aguirre Díaz, director of Mexico City’s water system. There are so many fixes needed that sometimes those repairs, which require the water to be shut off, are made without first notifying residents.

On New Year’s Day, the city announced it would suspend water for two days to 126 neighborhoods – including five hospitals – while it did work on pipes delivering potable water from an aqueduct in nearby Mexico State. This cut affected the city’s far north borough Gustavo A. Madero; yet a similar announcement was not made for the cuts on Dec. 31 to the Benito Juarez borough where I live.

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