University of Sussex
Ortiz Moreno, Jorge Adrian.pdf (2.66 MB)

Infrastructure alternatives in an incomplete modernity: a case study on the re-emergence of rainwater harvesting in Mexico City

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posted on 2024-06-11, 12:59 authored by Jorge Adrian Ortiz MorenoJorge Adrian Ortiz Moreno

Modern infrastructure networks make cities work by providing essential services such as water, sanitation and energy. However, across the urban Global South, universal and reliable services remain unachieved. What prevails instead is an ‘incomplete modernity’ expressed in unequal, segregated and often decaying networks. In this context, the present thesis addresses the emergence of rainwater harvesting (RwH) as an alternative infrastructure for household water supply in Mexico City, where the shortcomings of the local network have been catalogued as signs of a longstanding ‘water crisis’. In order to understand how new social and technological configurations are incorporated into contexts of incomplete modernity, data was collected through primary and secondary research (interviews, observations and documentary research) and analysed from a qualitative methodological approach. The results indicate that RwH has become a palliative niche for a dysfunctional socio-technical regime that systematically relegates marginalised populations from accessing adequate water services. The development of innovative RwH systems specifically designed for the needs of these populations has matched with concurrent narratives related to sustainability and social justice, contributing to the momentum of a niche space that is now being supported by the state through new policies and regulations. While these developments will not break the structural power arrangements behind the differential access to water in Mexico City, RwH has proven useful as a decentralised infrastructure that enables underserviced populations to improve their autonomy by reducing the time, effort and stress that implies getting water in conditions of disadvantage. The findings of this case study provide a fine-grained account of a contingent socio-technical change process happening in a Latin American megacity, adding to the emerging literature on urban transitions and transitions in the Global South.


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University of Sussex

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Jaideep Gupte and Adrian Smith

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