TOWARDS A NEW CULTURE OF WATER AT THE NATIONAL AUTONOMOUS UNIVERSITY OF MEXICO (UNAM)
In 2007 the National University of Mexico (UNAM) launched the Program for Water Management, Use and Reuse (PUMAGUA) with three main objectives: (1) to reduce water consumption by 50%; (2) to improve the quality of drinking and treated wastewater according to the most strict water quality norms; (3) to promote participation of the entire population of the university in the efficient use of water.
The first stage of PUMAGUA is taking place at the main campus of Mexico City, the University City, which covers an area of approximately 3 km2, includes around 100 buildings, and hosts a population of about 150,000. Before the university was built, the area was covered by xerophytic brushwood, where more than 350 species of plants and around 150 species of birds were registered. However the vegetation has been replaced by buildings, parking lots and more than 150 hectares of areas of grass and exotic plants, which are irrigated with an average of more than 1.5 millions of drinking water per day. The original vegetation is nowadays restricted to the Ecological Reserve of El Pedregal de San Ángel (REPSA), which covers 270 hectares. Therefore, one of the actions suggested by PUMAGUA is to substitute some of the 150 hectares of grass and exotic plants with the original brushwood vegetation, thus eliminating irrigation and promoting biodiversity conservation.
PUMAGUA encourages active participation of the community in this matter. Consequently gardeners have been invited to workshops where the proposal of substituting vegetation has been presented, and also over fifty students of Biology have carried out several researches related to this subject: description of irrigation methods in different areas of the campus, acceptance of the community about changing current gardens by native vegetation, in large areas as well as in gardens of some departments. In the Department of Politic and Social Sciences (adjacent to REPSA, and thus with an important function as a buffer zone) a zonification was carried out in order to determine the areas where reintroduction of native vegetation is feasible because of their physical and environmental characteristics, as well as because they do not have a recreational use.
An outstanding achievement in this sense integrate is the creation of a show garden inside de Botanical Garden of UNAM. It has an educational purpose, demonstrating visitors how native plants are integrated into the University landscape, where esthetical and ecological elements are assimilated. Biology students have drawn up a plant guide for this garden, where their ecological value are pointed out, in terms of preserving biodiversity and reducing water consumption.