What’s unique about the initiative?

The expanding water crisis in Mexico and abroad calls for sustainable, effective, and innovative solutions that contribute to the creation of sustainable water management models. Isla Urbana firmly believes that rainwater harvesting, capacity building and water culture promotion, public policy development, and, above all, high quality work based on empathy, are key elements for a much-needed water paradigm shift.

Most outstanding results

Although rainwater harvesting systems are not new to Mexico, governments haven’t taken them seriously enough to invest in. However, Isla Urbana, an organization run by an interdisciplinary group of designers, urbanists, engineers, anthropologists, educators and artists, has partnered up with the local and regional governments to provide clean water through rainwater harvesting programs, and to ease the drought plaguing Mexico’s most vulnerable populations, particularly in the three most important cities: Mexico City, Guadalajara, and Monterrey.

For these solutions to succeed, subsidy programs have to be designed and implemented in collaboration with local and regional governments and/or private investors, and they must address the most vulnerable communities, priorly identified as the ones who would benefit the most from these technologies. The standard systems implemented in urban contexts, for example, are designed to fit in small spaces and have a storage of 2,500 liters (550 gallons), provide 3 and up to 9 months of water autonomy depending on the region, and the water can be used for all domestic purposes, even drinking. Since 2009, Isla Urbana has installed over 30,000 such systems around Mexico, impacting more than 200,000 people.

The system’s effectiveness also relies on its users’ water habits, and particularly the level of adoption, achieved through education programs to utilize and maintain the technology, and to promote a responsible use of water. For that, the technology must be accompanied by capacity building, public policies, incentives and ongoing support. Isla Urbana does follow up visits to see if the technology is working and help people to develop a different relationship with water with, for example, lessons in schools about water culture for new generations of users, design of educational and didactic material, group and one-on-one training, and dissemination activities.

By the end of the year 2023, they expect to have rainwater harvesting storage systems and filtering technology in and additional 12,000 households and 250 schools, impacting 65,000 people.

Quote from the evaluation committee

“Rainwater harvesting is a simple and elegant technical solution that simultaneously helps address everyday domestic needs, infrastructural requirements, political goals and climate change impacts. Its systematic implementation, in patient and effective engagement with households and city authorities, is shifting public and institutional understandings of the water cycle and the human place within it, creating potential for far-reaching change in perceptions and planning concerning the relationships between cities and their ecological contexts.”

– Tom Henfrey


To know more, read this in-depth article. Also, you can scroll down to download the application form filled by this initiative to take part in the Transformative Cities award.