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DOMESTIC WATER ACCESS AND PERIURBAN POVERTY IN THE METROPOLITAN ZONE OF MEXICO CITY. WHAT CAN WE LEARN TO IMPROVE WATER ACCESS POLICY DECISIONS?

IWRA World Water Congress 2017 - Cancun Mexico
4. Water policy and governance
Author(s): Esthela Sotelo
Esthela Sotelo
ESTHELA.SOTELO@gmail.COM


Keyword(s): Water access, periurban poverty, public governance, metropolitan areas, policy decision
Article: Oral:

Abstract
The purpose of the investigation is to figure out how domestic water access process has changed in two of the poorest periurban settlements of the MZMC: San Isidro Tlaixco, Chimalhuacán and Santiago Tepatlaxco, Naucalpan. Based on the comparison of empirical data collected in 2010 and 2016, the aim of this project is to find changes and tendencies in two main aspects: (1) changes in water access conditions at domestic and community level (i.e. physical accessibility, economic asequibility, availability and consumption patterns); and (2) the dynamics of social adjustment mechanisms, developed by dwellers in both areas, to deal with the lack of water and sanitation in their homes. In a periurban poverty context, water access is a much more complex process than the traditional public services scheme tends to assume. 
In terms of satisfaction of human needs, the adequacy of water access relies not only in the availability of public infrastructure for water provision, but in the articulation of many types of resources such as: money, time, labor and social organization.  Such an articulation implies potential impacts in families living conditions, in terms of income level, time availability and health. 
Using the comparative method, this investigation contrasts the results obtained in both settlements in two different years of observation. The main sources of information are (i) the official socio demographic statistics, provided by the National Institute of Statistics, Geography and Informatics (INEGI) database; (ii) a first survey applied in 2010, and a second survey applied in 2016. In both years, the survey was applied to nearly 10% of the total number of homes in each case; (iii) qualitative interviews with key agents, involved in the process of water access management . 
The comparison starts with the assumption that, in both cases, there is not a unique mechanism by which periurban dwellers gain access to water and sanitation. Given the inefficiencies in public provition systems, domestic water access relies on the articulation of different types of strategies, which combine a wide range of actors and resources.
In both cases, we found a constant growth of public investment in order to expand network pipes and the number of public containers. Nevertheless, rather than improve the water and sanitation level access, it seems that this growing tendency has emphasized the differences in living conditions within and between both settlements.  Dwellers with no access to public infraestructure have to deal with informal water vendors, paying a high portion of their income  to full fit their basic requirements of water. 
Given the high monetary and no monetary cost of water, people in both cases had developed different adaptation strategies. Some of that strategies implies social exchanges, based on solidarity and common work. Others involve the articulation between market and government. As a result, water access has become a much more complex process than the one that public provition tends to assume. 
Findings suggest that, in a periurban poverty context, any improvement in water and sanitation access doesn´t depend on the intervention of one single actor. Neither the government, nor the market or the social organization are capable of dealing with the lack of water by themselves. 
In terms of water access policy decisions, it is necesary to recognize that the tradicional scheme of public provition is insufficient, given the metropolitan growth tendencies. We need to adopt a notion of public governance, asumming that water access is based on an open process of interactions and exchanges between different actors, rather than public provition by itself. To adopt a public governance notion implies to question our notion that water access is a synonym of access to infraestructure. It implies to accept that the way the government deals with this problem is not enough, and implies high social, political and ecological costs that become unsustainable in the long term.
 
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