The Tlaloc Initiative

Our Rainwater Harvesting system is the solution to Mexico City’s unsustainable water supply management crisis.

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I confirm that I am fully aware of the eligibility criteria, and based on its description, I am eligible to apply to the CSV Prize 2017.

  • Yes, I'm eligible

Preferred language

  • English

Organization name

Isla Urbana

Year founded


Initiative stage

  • Growth (the pilot has already launched and is starting to expand)

Annual budget in 2017 (USD)

  • $1mil - $5mil

Number of beneficiaries impacted so far

  • 50,000 - 100,000

Organization type

  • Social enterprise

Secondary Focus Area

  • Water

Headquarters location: Country

  • Mexico

Headquarters location: City

Mexico City

Location(s) of impact

Mexico City


Facebook URL

Twitter URL

Problem: What problem is this initiative trying to address?

Mexico City is at the epicenter of the global water crisis. Crumbling infrastructure and prohibitive barriers to network expansion have left approximately 30% of the 22 million inhabitants without reliable access to drinking water. The aquifers providing water to the system are being rapidly drained. We have been working for the past ten years on a solution and we believe that the installation of 100,000 Rainwater Harvesting (RWH) systems is it. We call it, The Tlaloc Initiative, in honor of the Aztec god of rain.

Solution Summary: What is the proposed solution? What do you see as its most promising aspects for creating shared value?

Our RWH system is a fresh take on the ancient Aztec practice of harvesting rainwater. Our system collects rainwater from the rooftop, filters it, and stores it in a cistern, providing clean drinking water to a family for up to a year. Tailor made for Mexico City, it reduces cost by taking advantage of the existing infrastructure in most homes. For example, 60% of Mexico City homes already have a cistern. The Tlaloc Initiative is our plan to install 100,000 units in Mexico City over the next three years. Completion of our initiative creates shared value by demonstrating a sustainable water management solution for all of Mexico City. Phase 1 is almost complete. We're on pace to install 5,000 units in 2017. At this critical moment, the Shared Value Prize would allow us to install 20,000 units in 2019, 30,000 units in 2020, and 50,000 units in 2021. You would be helping bring Mexico City a sustainable water management solution.

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Specify both the social and the environmental impact of your work

It’s hard to overstate how important access to clean water is. Suffice to say that areas without reliable access to clean water suffer from poor health, economic uncertainty, and higher infant mortality rates. In Mexico City we have riots when the water system fails and it fails often. To date we have installed over 7,000 systems providing clean drinking water to over 50,000 people who did not have access to affordable, sustainable, drinking water. These people are healthier and have time to develop economically rather than simply survive. The city benefits by reducing both the burden on the water supply system and flooding from rainwater. Yes, in small amounts now, but RWH systems are completely scalable and the data suggests a paradigm shift when we complete the Tlaloc initiative. We can take Mexico City from the brink of disaster to the doorway of a sustainable water management future. Once success is proven here we see no reason why it can't be exported to the world.

Financial sustainability plan: How is this initiative financially supported? How will you ensure its financial sustainability long-term?

In our early stages we have largely been funded through our non-profit arm. However, by the end of the initiative, we believe economies of scale, increased efficiency, awareness, and water scarcity will put us on a path toward earned income as the dominant source of financial sustainability with the following breakdown: Earned Income (40%) Those who can afford it pay full cost with a 20% profit margin. Grants (10%) We will continue to leverage our successful grant applications. Donations/Gifts (5%) People have been generous and we expect that to continue. Corporate contributions (10%) We are developing corporate partnerships as we grow. Government participation (35%) Local governments have subsidized up to 85% of the cost of implementation in previous projects.

Unique value proposition: What makes your initiative innovative? How does your project differ from other organizations working in the same field?

The Tlaloc initiative has been directly tailored to solve Mexico City's unsustainable water management crisis. Our RWH system is scalable, affordable, and sustainable with a patented first flush filter. Pumping water from further away, repairing a byzantine, deteriorating water system, or building desalinization plants all represent massive unsustainable expense. RWH systems can be installed in phases, with immediate benefit, at a fraction of the cost of the alternatives.

Founding story: Share a story about the "Aha!" moment that sparked the beginning of this initiative.

Isla Urbana is the brainchild of Enrique Lomnitz and David Vargas. Both were born in Mexico City and both wanted to solve the big problems of their beloved hometown. Each came to realize that water scarcity, especially among marginalized communities, was the main problem and that it was only going to get worse. Each culminated their studies with thesis papers on rainwater harvesting as the most practical solution to Mexico City’s water management problem. Upon graduation, each began to implement prototype RWH systems in and around Mexico City. When they met they realized that they had the same mission. The only problem was how to prove they had the solution. From that meeting was born the Tlaloc Initiative. Installing 100,000 RWH systems in and around Mexico City would prove that there was an affordable, sustainable water supply management solution to Mexico City's water crisis.

Where did you hear about the Nestlé Creating Shared Value Prize?

  • Participated in previous CSV Prize competitions


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Photo of Mouhamadou Moustapha Seck

Interesting. Good luck.

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