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Balancing trade-offs for wastewater treatment in Mexico City

June 21, 2016

Wastewater treatment is a serious issue in Mexico City due to its large population, heavy water use, and inadequate wastewater infrastructure. Researchers supported by IDRC have published a paper where they compare the social and environmental impacts of the technology used in wastewater treatment plants in Mexico City.

The researchers conducted interviews to determine the extent of social and environmental impacts related to wastewater treatment and consulted a wide range of stakeholders, including plant employees, buyers and consumers of treated water, suppliers, and local government. They looked at the impact on 

  • human rights
  • working conditions
  • health and safety
  • socio-economic conditions 
  • and the effects on air, water, land, and human health

The authors found that wastewater plants generally create positive social benefits, but the environmental impacts are mixed. For example, while the wastewater process can produce greenhouse gases and other pollution, this may be offset by the environmental benefits of a clean water supply.

This analysis of the trade-offs between environmental and social well-being will be useful for decision-makers working to promote sustainable development.

This paper is part of a project supported by the Climate Change and Water program, Adapting to Climate Change by making better use of Bioenergy Resources (Latin America and the Caribbean)