We first met Héctor Juárez as a speaker during the World Design Talks™ on Water in Mexico City in October 2018. Héctor is the co-founder of Primal, a transdisciplinary studio based in Mexico City (Mexico). As part of our Water Series, WDO® sought to learn more about their rainwater harvesting projects as it relates to the achievement of UN SDG target 6.1: to achieve universal and equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water for all. He shares with us his impressions on the future of water in Mexico City and how to design for it.
What kind of projects does Primal develop to provide access to clean water in Mexico City?
A problem that relates water to waste is the use of bottled water, which on its own, is a manufacturing process that consumes large amounts of energy and resources (bottle making, product transport, monopolization of aquifers), and leaves behind a huge amount of waste.
In Mexico City, approximately 2,000 tons of glass containers are discarded every year; that is to say, around nine million bottles end up in open-air landfills.
754MM is the average annual rainfall for Mexico City. Each milliliter of water is equivalent to one liter per square meter, which means that 1,127,230,000,000 liters of water are poured every year, equivalent to 112,723,000 of water pipes. This amount would be enough to supply the entire population of the Federal District and the metropolitan area.
Primal’s 754MM RainWater project is an initiative to collect, purify and distribute rainwater through the reuse of glass bottles that would otherwise be discarded. It is an awareness initiative that informs communities of the effects of bottled water consumption on the planet and seeks to demonstrate the responsible alternative of rainwater as drinkable for human consumption.
We bottle the rainwater in washed, cleaned, unlabeled salvaged glass bottles. These rainwater bottles are displayed altogether in installations where the aesthetics of the bottles gain attention from the public and then, we invite them to try the rainwater. We use the bottles as a conversation piece, gaining awareness about the water crisis all over the world and how strategies such as rain harvesting can help change our relationship with water and its management.
How do you see Mexico City in 20 years? What can be the impact of industrial design in this future?
Mexico City has a great potential for the future. We have everything, from profound traditions to high-end technology, as well as a multicultural, diverse population. Still, we need to find other ways to coexist with our natural and built environment. In the next 20 years, envision a city consisting of small human-scaled and manageable clusters, where community is stronger, where human relations are promoted. A built environment that promotes better life and better relations between all inhabitants. I also envision a future where design is not specialized anymore: there is no architecture, graphic design, industrial design, clothing design. There is just design at different scales, but always from a generalist vision, one with multiple disciplines involved.
How would you define the “water issue” in Mexico?
There is no “unique” water issue in Mexico, but I can say that Mexico City in particular has lost its balance with water. Today, citizens mostly depend on water that is pumped from outside the city (and after using it, we have to pump it out again). Yet, every year, the city has an average precipitation of 754mm, which is enough water to address the needs of the whole population. But every year, this rainwater goes directly to the drainage, flooding streets and large zones of the city, bringing chaos to the streets and destroying homes. Definitely, we need to rethink our relationship with our resources. This city was built over a lake so there is a great opportunity to go back to that balance and live in harmony with our environment.
Héctor Juárez has worked as a consultant in sustainability, art and design for diverse companies. He develops systems of architecture and integral design and engages in collective, personal or self-management practices with NGOs and design and art projects.