Early Tuesday, we joined Isla Urbana (including founder Renata) and volunteer students in the installation of a Tlaloque 200 system at a home in Tlalpan, south of México City. There were about five bio-engineering undergraduates from the University of Pennsylvania, and five students from a high school in Dallas Texas, who were a part of student-run organizations on water activism within their schools and fundraised to work with Isla Urbana on installations around México City.
The home was built on an incline, so our working space was narrowed to the path leading up to it. Renata and other Isla Urbana members first planned based on what was on hand: the allowable space, the parts they brought, and the existing conditions (which built off of a miniature harvesting system they had installed prior). The planning was quick, strategic, and resourceful – and as most of the team were students plus Alberto and I, we got a lesson on how each part operated within the system. We used nothing more than the Tlaloque 200 set, PVC piping, glue, measuring tape, shovels, levels, and saws.
The effort took six hours, but would have been less without the effort to conceal piping underground and without an extra run to the hardware store for an extra PVC joint. Afterwards, the team enjoyed dinner with the resident family.
The technology is extremely simple – water falls onto the roof, is drained into the “first flush” tank (which collects the first 15 minutes of rain, the unusable polluted part), overflows into the main vessel where a basket collects sediment, and boom. We saw how simple the installation truly was; and, as Renata mentioned in our talk with her, the rest is correct maintenance (education, care from the resident family, and follow up from Isla Urbana).
A day before, we met with Sofia Arredondo, an artist/designer who collaborated with Isla Urbana on a site-specific public installation called “bajoTecH2O” in 2018. The installation, temporarily placed in Atrio de San Francisco, acted as both as a water fountain and forum – with intention of informing the public of Isla Urbana’s technology, attempting to skew locals’ attitudes on water from outside the ‘reliable’ plastic bottle.
Sofia stressed her goal for an affective communication in México City. Now, her work is geared towards revealing environmental dismays, and the efforts those can take to combat against it. Her future work hopes to inpire another audience: those with either the power or money to implement serious changes in México. We ask the same question: how can we trick the government? How do we fund this? As we have learned from Isla Urbana: the technology is there, now we need everyone on board.