Oasis of Resilience? An Empirical Investigation of Rain Water Harvesting Systems in a High Poverty, Peripheral Community


The southeastern mayorality of Mexico City known as Xochimilco has some of the highest poverty, unemployment, male suicide, and illegal land use rates in the region. Lakes and aquifers have dried up due to mismanagement and overall water quality is poor. NGOs and governments have sought to increase the water resilience of residents through policy interventions such as the installation of rainwater harvesting systems. Using geocoded, quantitative data on more than 700 residential households (half of which have rain water harvesting systems) and qualitative interviews with 40 households collected after the earthquake we seek to understand the relationship between demographic, environmental, and technical factors and water related outcomes in Xochimilco. We illuminate what drives demand for market-based water purchasing, the speed of diffusion of rainwater harvesting systems, and the drivers of adoption in this peripheral community. Our results show that vulnerable populations are on the whole less likely to receive rainwater harvesting systems than similar but better-resourced communities. Our findings bring with them a number of policy recommendations for residents, NGOs, and disaster managers.

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    Technical Note: We used shapefiles from the National Institute of Statistics and Geography of Mexico to build our measure of road access. The lines were mapped as multiple line segments outlining roads, instead of a single line representing a street, avenue, highway, or otherwise. This method essentially double-counts the length of roads twice, as it measures both the right and left lines that outline a road in the process.


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We wish to acknowledge Isla Urbana for providing access to its datasets and the anonymous reviewers for their feedback.

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Correspondence to Daniel P. Aldrich.

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Aldrich, D.P., Page-Tan, C. Oasis of Resilience? An Empirical Investigation of Rain Water Harvesting Systems in a High Poverty, Peripheral Community. EconDisCliCha 4, 129–144 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s41885-019-00050-2

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  • Resilience
  • Water infrastructure
  • Rainwater harvesting systems
  • Sustainability
  • Earthquake
  • Mexico City
  • GIS