Combating water scarcity by integrating circular water systems into a bustling Mexican market. This requires not only innovative technology, but also clever spatial design and a deep understanding of the political and social context. Calzada del Agua meets that requirement.

Their feasibility study, funded by Partners for Water, is coming to a successful conclusion. The key to its success? “Combining each other’s strengths.”

It’s a rainy afternoon when Karina Peña sits down in her office in the Dutch city of Delft. The glass wall and open metal shelving reveal a glimpse of vibrant activity. The innovative start-up’s CEO and co-founder explains: “Here at FieldFactors, we’re producing unique modular systems to make locations or facilities water-neutral and climate-resilient – we call them ‘BlueBloqs’. They consist of products for rainwater purification and control and monitoring that work together seamlessly”. Karina strongly believes in the power of working together – and not just when it comes to products. “We’re the technical partner of the consortium behind Calzada del Agua and together we aim to tackle Mexico’s severe water scarcity.”

Karina Peña by Guus Schoonewille

Creating synergy

The project benefits from the expertise shared by each consortium partner. For instance, while FieldFactors provides BlueBloqs, urban planning firm Beccan Davila + Puentes (BD+P) handles the spatial design, integrating FieldFactors’ technology into regional settings. Additionally, the Mexican consultancy agency Centro SC provides valuable support by managing the regulatory context and relevant stakeholders. “It’s a fruitful, complementary collaboration,” Karina says. “Since we had never worked together before, we had to get to know each other first. How could we create synergy? Clear communication turned out to be crucial – for example, to discuss what each of us could bring to the table and what we expected from one another.”

Bridging differences

The consortium adopted a proactive approach in order to understand the full implications of the partners’ differences and align their perspectives. “From the start, we defined a shared vision and project goals identifying the best ways to support each other in pursuing those goals.” This meant, for instance, combining each other’s risk perceptions. “Service providers, who mainly invest in work hours, perceive other risks than a technology provider like us”, Karina explains. “FieldFactors invests in materials and needs to deliver a product overseas. And we care about the future maintenance of the BlueBloqs.”

Bluebloq circular water system

Sharing experience

The differences between the three organisations are not just a challenge. They are also extremely valuable. “We wouldn’t be working on this project right now if it weren’t for the collaboration with the BD+P and Centro SC”, Karina says. “At FieldFactors, we had no prior experience in Mexico. So, we lacked local networks, as well as a thorough understanding of the institutional and regulatory context there. Our consortium partners had those networks and knowledge of the local context. Their extensive experience in Mexico is one of the main factors contributing to the potential success of the Calzada del Agua project.”

Stakeholder engagement

“We must actively involve local stakeholders if we want our project to have real and lasting impact”, says Karina. “From the local government to the water authority and from the water utility to end-users. They need to be on board.” That’s why the consortium has held numerous workshops with these stakeholders. “In Mexico, involving the authorities and end users is crucial for projects like ours to succeed. If you don’t engage with the local authorities from day one, you won’t make any progress. To create ownership and interest, it’s critical that they take part in creating the solutions. That’s why we asked them: what are your needs? How do you think a rainwater reuse system can work?’ We spent time genuinely listening to their input and that was reciprocated with enthusiasm and support from them!”

Stakeholder engagement in the Mexican city of Oaxaca

What’s next?

With the feasibility testing coming to an end, the consortium partners now find themselves at a time of realignment. “Having identified a receptive market, we are now discussing how to implement the BlueBloqs technology in Mexico and how we can continue working together. In the coming period, we will explore how to accomplish this effectively and what is required to grow as a consortium.

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