Developing a Robust Water Strategy for Monterrey, Mexico

Diversification and Adaptation for Coping with Climate, Economic, and Technological Uncertainties

by Edmundo Molina-Perez, David G. Groves, Steven W. Popper, Aldo I. Ramirez, Rodrigo Crespo-Elizondo

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Research Questions

  1. What are the long-term trends and vulnerabilities in water management in Monterrey?
  2. What is the best way to assess and compare alternative investment and policy actions to address these trends and vulnerabilities?
  3. How can a robust long-term water strategy for Monterrey be constructed in the context of many future uncertainties?

Mexico's third-largest metropolitan area, Monterrey, faces future water security challenges as the region grows. Fondo de Agua Metropolitano de Monterrey commissioned staff from Tecnológico de Monterrey in partnership with the RAND Corporation to conduct an analysis of the long-term trends and vulnerabilities in water management in Monterrey and to help design a long-term robust water strategy.

The study documented in this report uses RAND's Robust Decision Making (RDM) framework to organize the analysis and was carried out in close collaboration with Monterrey's water planning community.

The results of the study show that the current capacity of Monterrey's water system is not sufficient to sustain current reliability levels in the near term or beyond. Increases in water demand will soon reduce the reliability of the system below current levels (i.e., 97 percent), and potential declines in water availability across current source basins and groundwater sources would further erode reliability. In their analysis, the researchers defined a robust, adaptive water management strategy that includes near-term investments to expand the capacities of the system and make it more efficient while monitoring future water demand and climate conditions to inform expansions in the coming years. This plan is consistent with the intuition and previous analysis of local stakeholders regarding the need to expand the supply capacities of the current system while being mindful of the significant uncertainties about the future. Finally, the analysis shows that this adaptive strategy significantly reduces the latent vulnerabilities present in the current system.

Key Findings

  • The results of the initial assessment of vulnerabilities showed that the current capacity of Monterrey's water system is not sufficient to sustain current reliability levels in the short, medium, or long term.
  • Increases in water demand will reduce the reliability of the system below current levels (i.e., 97 percent); the same is true for declines in water availability across current source basins and groundwater sources.
  • If nothing is done to expand the capacities of the system — or to make it more efficient — the reliability of Monterrey's water system is likely to progressively erode in the coming years.
  • Analysis shows that an adaptive investment strategy is required to achieve robustness. The study assesses broadly diversified alternative choices for expanding the capacities of the current system in the short term while also identifying factors to be monitored to trigger specific potential future investments.
  • There is a robust strategy that keeps costs for this expansion at a comparatively low level in the near term (i.e., US $439 million). Then, for the medium and long terms, different contingent investments are identified for later consideration.

Recommendations

  • In the near term (to 2026), invest in a diversified set of small-scale projects, which include new groundwater sources, a new surface source (i.e., La Libertad Dam), and greater efficiency in the distribution network.
  • In the medium and long terms (2027–2050), monitor for the need to employ alternative expansion strategies that respond to different combinations of water demand, groundwater availability, and surface water conditions at source basins.
  • Continue to employ methods for decisionmaking under uncertainty, such as RDM, to guide infrastructure planning that will enhance the efficiency, cost-effectiveness, and reliability of water systems despite potentially large future shifts in climate, hydrology, demographics, technology, and economic growth.

Table of Contents

  • Chapter One

    Water Planning in Monterrey: Future Uncertainties and Political Gridlock

  • Chapter Two

    Developing a Robust, Adaptive Water-Management Strategy

  • Chapter Three

    Future Vulnerability of Monterrey's Water Supply

  • Chapter Four

    Enhancing the Resilience of Monterrey's Water System Through a Robust, Adaptive Master Plan

  • Chapter Five

    Conclusions and Policy Recommendations

  • Appendix A

    Robust Decision Making Methodology

  • Appendix B

    Integrated Assessment Model

  • Appendix C

    Constructing the Uncertain Futures

Research conducted by

The research described in this report was funded by Fondo de Agua Metropolitano de Monterrey (FAMM) and conducted by the Community Health and Environmental Policy Program within RAND Social and Economic Well-Being.

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