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My city has run out of drinking water. Here’s how I’m taking action as a data scientist.

Himanshu Gupta • August 5th, 2022.

A combination of poor water management, severe lack of rain, and blistering heatwaves are hurting my family and neighbors. Here’s what it’s like to be tackling climate change while experiencing it firsthand.

I haven’t had running water in my house for the past month. My family has had to limit our showering, dishwashing, and even using the bathroom. I haven’t been exercising in order to conserve our drinking water, which we have to buy weekly from off-market sellers for three times the normal monthly price we pay to the city.

I live in Monterrey, Mexico, the ninth biggest city in the country, and we’re experiencing the worst drought in memory. Our region’s water supplies have been depleted — I visited the nearby lake and reservoir, where I used to swim as a child, and it was empty. It was staggering.

Water levels in the Cerro Prieto reservoir, near Guadalupe in the northern Mexican state ofNuevo León, from 2015 vs. 2022. Images viaNASA Observatory.
 
I live inside the metropolitan area, where we’re supposed to have water for a few hours a day, but my home is located near a mountain that affects our water pressure, so we have no access. I’m not alone: In the rural outskirts of Monterrey, residents haven’t had water for months, and line up for hours for water deliveries from the Mexican government, with no other way to replenish the most critical resource. And according to theNew York Times,taps have run dry in nearly two out of every three municipalities in the entire country.

Meanwhile, much of the industry in the region revolves around beverage companies and brewers, who still have access to this scarce water. In the past few years, our government has let many proposals to improve water access and quality for residents lapse. Mexican citizens are being forced to adapt to this new normal, but we’re angry with the situation and how we got here.

[quote text=”“When I see the impact of not caring about climate change tangibly manifesting in my daily life, I’m driven to care more and work harder.“]

The national response is not meeting the stakes of the moment: While Mexico has experienced droughts in the past, the scale of this one is unprecedented — we’re in the middle of the driest two decades in the past 1,200 years. Climate change is no doubt exacerbating this drought.

As a data scientist who is working for a climate-tech company, I’m working directly on these issues that I’m experiencing. Water scarcity is not the only climate change impact that the world is facing — extreme weather, floods, sea-level rise, and other knock-on effects like food shortages, migration, disease, and unrest are already underway.

I feel motivated to work for a mission-driven company and do this work daily, to help not only those I know experiencing these struggles but those around the world. When I see the impact of not caring about climate change tangibly manifesting in my daily life, I’m driven to care more and work harder. Even as I personally worry about clean water and what short-term and long-term solutions the government will provide us, I feel I am able to make a difference on climate in my professional life to prevent greater climate catastrophe.

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