Huichol with drinking water in 2021
The project will provide the Huichol with free drinking water. (Photo: Sol García, from Isla Urbana)

The Wixárika, a people known internationally for their handicrafts decorated with colored beads, will have drinking water as of 2021.

This is the goal of the project from Isla Urbana, a company founded by Enrique Lomnitz in 2009. The “Huichol nation” will be provided with water for free through a rainwater harvesting and purification system.

This plan will benefit around 15,000 people located in 23 towns in the San Andrés Cohamiata region, on the border between Jalisco, Nayarit, and Durango, in Mexico’s Sierra Madre Occidental.

“We want to achieve universal water coverage throughout the Huichol nation, and to do it in a totally sustainable and autonomous way. We’re going to do this by harvesting rainwater in all of their schools, health centers, clinics, and ceremonial centers,” Lomnitz says in an interview for Tec Review.

Isla Urbana decided to set up the project after a field study found that Huichol drinking water sources aren’t thoroughly clean.

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The entrepreneurial scheme

Although Isla Urbana has direct sales models to customers interested in rainwater collection systems, most of its projects (such as the one focused on the Wixárika) are funded by governments or development agencies.

For implementation, Lomnitz will be using a 10,000-dollar prize he won for being named “Emerging Explorer 2020” by National Geographic, thanks to his initiatives for bringing drinking water to marginalized communities. Incidentally, he was the only Mexican of the eight people selected worldwide.

“Enrique Lomnitz is an industrial designer focused on water access and sustainability. Lomnitz’s organization, Isla Urbana, mostly works in low-income, peri-urban neighborhoods, and in remote rural and indigenous communities, where it has installed over 20,000 rainwater harvesters,” a National Geographic statement reads.

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Other Isla Urbana projects

For 2021, Lomnitz also has in mind Rain Schools, a program carried out together with the Water Commission of the State of Mexico (CAEM), to guarantee water supply in the state’s elementary and middle school toilets.

In addition, he’s already starting work in San Juan Tlacotenco, in the upper part of the Tepoztlán Mountain in Morelos, near to Mexico City.

“It’s a town of around 2,500 people, with a lot of water supply problems, and the idea is to provide a safe and sustainable water supply in 2021,” says this social entrepreneur.

Lomnitz says that, for him, it’s an enormous satisfaction to help marginalized communities on national soil. His aim is for no one to suffer from lack of water in Mexico.

“Mexico suffers from extensive water problems that are getting worse each year, which is why we want to contribute to the country becoming sustainable. We want to bring about a systemic change in the way water is supplied,” he concludes.