An initiative by Volkswagen has restored groundwater supplies in Puebla Tlaxcala, Mexico. The benefits are shared by the local communities, national government and business alike.
Volkswagen de México earmarked $430,000 of funding for the project for the first two years and will subsequently lend its further support to maintaining and managing the restored forest area.
Car manufacturer Volkswagen operates factories in the Puebla Tlaxcala valley in Mexico, a region where the water-supply situation is particularly critical. Although the waste water Volkswagen produces is treated and recycled, it has been obvious for years that there would not be enough fresh water for the growing city of Puebla and the industrial area nearby. In this context, securing a reliable water supply was critical for Volkswagen to ensure the stability of its production.
An analysis found that groundwater replenishment in the valley was contingent to a substantial degree on the functionality of the ecosystems on the volcanic slopes of Popocatépetl and Iztaccíhuatl. It was important, therefore, to re-plant the deforested slopes between the two volcanoes in the source region of the Rio Atoyac. 300,000 highland pines, Hartweg's Pines(a native Mexican tree), were planted on an expanse of around three square kilometers at an altitude of up to 4,000 meters. The trees promote the production of humus soil and are thus conducive to the establishment of secondary vegetation there. It prevents soil erosion, thereby stopping water from being drained away. As a consequence, an increasing amount of glacial meltwater as well as rainwater, seeps back into the ground.
To help this process along, some 21,000 pits were also dug out on the slopes and about 100 larger earth-banks were erected throughout this terrain. These installations help to retain the rainwater and facilitate water infiltration into the deeper soil layers.
These measures will enable more than 1,300,000 additional cubic meters of water per annum to be fed into the ground reserves in the source region. That is significantly more groundwater than Volkswagen de México itself consumes every year. Over the long term, the additional forest biomass will also sequester atmospheric CO2 and provide habitat for native flora and fauna.
Securing water supply is critical for Volkswagen's long term operations in the region. This project will help to prevent water rationing, rising water prices and unrest in the local population, therefore guaranteeing the social license to operate for Volkswagen in Mexico.
The company decided to join forces with specialists from the Comision Nacional de Areas Naturales Protegidas and the Free University of Mexico City to comprehensively examine the groundwater situation in the region.
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