Can Design Challenge Inequality?
Isla Urbana is a water conservation non-profit based in Mexico City. The group has engaged the ongoing water crisis in Mexico City by developing rainwater harvesting kits that are affordable and easy to install. Most notably, Isla Urbana’s kits are designed to fit onto existing structures, allowing them to be widely deployed in the existing informal sprawl which surrounds Mexico City.
Mexico City’s massive growth over the last several decades has completely taxed the aquifer underneath the city. As a result, the city is both running out of water and sinking at the same time. The development of formal water systems has not kept up with the building of neighborhoods and as a consequence, many residents may go days or weeks without running water.
Isla Urbana engages this problem on several levels.
First, they have designed and manufactured a variety of kits designed to capture rainwater. All kits are inexpensive, and designed specifically to be installed on existing buildings. The kits take advantage of the fact that many homes in Mexico City have cisterns for collection and storage of water despite not being connected to a formal water systems. Optional features allow for filtration, so that residents can draw potable water directly from the sky. These installations allow for residents to achieve, on average, 5 to 8 months of water independence throughout the year. This reduces both the family’s financial burden (from buying water) and the social burden created by being another drain on the Mexico City’s dwindling water supply.
Along with physical installations, Isla Urbana conducts art-driven workshops and events designed to inspire consciousness around water conservation. In many communities, encouraging the conservation of water is a sociological change, as much as a technological one. From DIY pamphlets, to murals and instructional videos, Isla Urbana uses a mix of media to promote the importance of water consciousness, providing a model for how future cities will eventually deal with water crises.