Mexico City wouldn’t be the same without the grungy yet beautiful canals of Xochimilco. Not only are they a popular tourist attraction and weekend escape for locals, but they’re also a UNESCO World Heritage Site with a history dating back more than a thousand years.
But this iconic canal system is threatened by increase urbanization and pollution, which is degrading and reducing the size of the canals. Thankfully, a group of Mexican scientists have developed a unique “nanobubble” system using solar energy to improve water quality in the canal system.
Mexican scientists develop special technology to help save Xochimilco’s canals.
Mexican officials have long been focused on trying to clean up Mexico’s famed Xochimilco canal system, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the few areas of the capital that still boasts canal networks dating back to Aztec times.
And now, thanks to a team of researchers from the Center for Research and Advanced Studies (Cinvestav), progress is finally starting to be made in the long overdue cleanup process. The group has developed a method using solar energy to activate a pump that sends cleansing “nanobubbles” into the water.
With these bubbles flowing through the water, they help provide oxygen which eliminates harmful pollutants and reduces greenhouse gas emissions. Together, these processes help lead to plants and animals, according to Refugio Rodriguez Vazquez, a Cinvestav researcher.
The nanobubble system enables local farmers “to be able to work on their chinampas and make them productive by having a cleaner environment and conditions,” Rodriguez added.
“We’ve seen in the places that we have bubbled a good proliferation of the Montezuma frog,” Rodriguez said, referring to one of Mexico’s native amphibian species.
The famous trajineras are an important part of this exciting project.
To help with the project’s sustainability and scalability, the solar panels powering the nanobubble technology sit atop Xochimilco’s famous “trajineras,” barge-like boats that shuttle tourists through the canals. They also provide onboard electricity.
“It can give us more benefits, both national and international tourism,” said Miguel Poblano Lugo, a trajinera service provider. “People who bring their cell phone and don’t have a battery can recharge them right there.”
Experts are hopeful that this technology could also be used and replicated in other waterways in Mexico City, where water quality is considered poor and supplies are often at the mercy of droughts.
Xochimilco is a delicate ecosystem with a long and special history.
Xochimilco – including the extensive canal system – is located in an ancient lakebed that has seen constant change according to local and government needs. Today’s network of canals looks a lot different than it did during the 13 and 14th centuries, when the Native Aztecas created chinampas – floating farm beds cultivated by the Aztecs to feed the population of the pre-Hispanic city.
It remains a delicate ecosystem, of which many locals depend on for agricultural needs. But the system is being overburdened by multiple uses – from farming and runoff to tourism and pollution. Let’s hope that these new technologies being deployed will help clean up the popular attraction.